100 per cent FIFO policy ends

The Queensland Government will no longer allow new mining projects to operate under a 100 per cent FIFO policy.

The decision has been long awaited by unions and mining communities, who have lobbied the government in favour of ensuring local residents are able to seek work at nearby mines.

The new policy outlines that new mines will not be able to use a full FIFO workforce if nearby towns have people suitable for mining employment.

Queensland’s minister for resources Anthony Lynham said changes would apply to existing mines, meaning companies needed to make considerations for local jobs.

"Resource companies must have workforce plans to maximise the opportunity for local workers to gain employment, including skills development and training required to get a job," he said.

Only two mines in Queensland, BMA’s Daunia and Caval Ridge coal mines, have not allowed local workers to apply for jobs since they opened in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

The public reception for the new change has been emotional for people in the Bowen Basin, with Isaac Regional Council mayor Anne Baker welcoming the prospect of new jobs for local workers, after seeing people and businesses suffer in her region as a result of the 100 per cent FIFO policy.

"We're absolutely ecstatic. It's a fantastic win for Queensland workers today, and their families, and our future generations,” she said.

"There's been tears shed because it's been a long time coming."

"Locals can't work in the mines they live alongside, families are forced out of town, businesses close down and the effects flow on.”

Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Michael Roche launched a shrill protest against the regulatory change, claiming the new policy would affect investor confidence in the state’s mining industry.

“Many of the proposed changes flagged today would not help existing and future resource operations to compete or thrive in what is an increasingly competitive global market,” he said.

"The last thing our industry needs is a whole bunch of new draconian regulations and rules.

“At a time when the resources sector is facing very difficult market conditions, more red tape will heap extra costs upon resource companies, which are doing everything possible to compete globally and employ thousands of Queenslanders.

“QRC accepts that all parties in the Queensland parliament do not support future 100 per cent mining operations where there are nearby towns that have a capable workforce, however we do not support any retrospective regulatory action against existing mines.”

 CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth said the legislative change, due later this year, was good news for workers in the Bowen Basin, but should be approached with cautious optimism.

“It’s a good start, but I’ve still got to see the proof. Obviously we need to see what it means long term, and how all of this will play out,” Smyth said.

“I’ve see some of the talk getting around about how this will cost jobs, but that’s just absolute nonsense and rhetoric.

“What I think it will mean in a positive sense is that people will actually get an opportunity, if they are currently in a compulsory arrangement, to live where they wish to live, and in turn workers will be able to apply for the jobs they’ve been locked out of, to live and work in the local areas.

Smyth said he was disappointed but not surprised at the resistance from the QRC and coal companies, who he said were utilising a “big stick” approach to the issue.

“They shouldn’t think that people are suckers who will fall for the loss of jobs argument,” he said.

“They’ve even said diversity will suffer… it’s crazy to think that people would fall for this garbage.

“If Michael Roche could come out and put some real hard evidence on the table that says this will cost Daunia and Caval Ridge workers their jobs, but he can’t, it’s just the same rhetoric. And that’s what he gets paid for by his bosses.

“They say it’s just about the union’s views, and we do speak on behalf of our members, but we’re also interested in all the workers, and their communities. Some might not like to admit it, but we are.”

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