House debates

Thursday, 30 October 2014


Capricornia Electorate: Employment

11:27 am

Photo of Michelle LandryMichelle Landry (Capricornia, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is a major issue impacting on Capricornia at this point in time, which is costing jobs, placing enormous pressures on regional business and causing small communities to virtually die a slow death. I refer to the complex issue of 100 per cent fly-in fly-out work contracts in central Queensland's coal fields, which comes on top of a huge downturn in mining. One hundred per cent FIFO workers are flown in directly from Cairns, Brisbane or the Gold Coast and not hired from local coal towns or the nearest regional city. Tomorrow the member for Dawson, George Christensen, and I will meet with key business owners in Mackay—particularly in the construction industry—which are hard-hit by the downturn in the coal sector. They say the impact of 100 per cent FIFO at some central Queensland mines—Daunia and Caval Ridge—is killing business confidence in the region. One builder reports that his building business has gone from employing nine people down to three. He usually has a whole year of work in front of him, but he has not had a home inquiry for 18 months.

In the town of Moranbah this sign appears at the Drovers Rest Motel and Camp Oven Restaurant:

Joan & Evan Hartley, owners of the above restaurant, regretfully advise residents of Moranbah that we are forced to close the sit down meal section due to the downturn in the mining industry; contractor's employees having to stay in the camps; and the reduction in the requirement of motel accommodation.

According to Mr Hartley, it has become untenable to continue to trade when he is losing $10,000 a month. Mr Hartley told me:

… because the mining companies are building their own camps for their FIFO employees, all town businesses have been brought to their knees.

I quote again directly from Mr Hartley:

When the demand for motel accommodation was at its highest, BMA approached us to rent all our rooms 52 weeks a year.

He claims that now mining companies are forcing new contractors to house their FIFO or DIDO employees in work camps instead of motels or rental houses, which previously stimulated the local economy. Stories like this are disturbing for our coalmining towns. I have continued to campaign against 100 per cent FIFO work practices. I have provided Mr Hartley's letters to the Queensland Premier and Deputy Premier. It is time the Queensland LNP state government worked together with these communities. I will continue open dialogue with coal company BMA and urge BMA to assist in alleviating the impact that 100 per cent FIFO contracts are having on local business confidence in central Queensland. This includes filling any vacancies that occur on these mines as a result of 100 per cent FIFO workers resigning from their jobs through natural attrition with local people from local towns.

Meanwhile, it is important not to forget who are allowed 100 per cent FIFO contractors to occur in our coalfields in the first place. The Labor Party and former Queensland Labor Premier Anna Bligh opened the floodgates and allowed the practice of 100 per cent FIFO at Moranbah in the first place. State Labor MPs and the Labor government approved workforce arrangements for BMA's Caval Ridge mine in September 2011.

Many people know that I have been advocating for an end to 100 per cent FIFO since before the last federal election. Earlier this year, I distanced myself from state LNP colleagues over the adverse impact of 100 per cent FIFO when the state government continued the practice. I took the issue to the state LNP convention in Brisbane. The current state government eventually conceded and announced it would no longer approve 100 per cent FIFO for future coalmining projects. But more needs to be done to alleviate the harm already being done in our local towns and our regional cities.

More recently, I spearheaded two successful motions at the National Party federal council in Canberra on the impact of 100 per cent FIFO and a fairer tax system for people living in remote mining towns. Federal National Party delegates endorsed the motion, calling on the state governments to ensure that all mining contracts, including requirements to employ locals, prohibit 100 per cent FIFO workforces where a local workforce is available. What we need now is for the state government to engage more with our small communities on this subject and have open dialogue with federal MPs. Local people must have the opportunity to apply for local jobs.

Question agreed to.

Federation Chamber adjourned 11:31 .