FIFO report ‘gathering dust’

Six months on from the FIFO inquiry, two Queensland MPs have slammed the Labor Government for failing to implement any of its 21 recommendations.

Member for Dawson George Christensen and FIFO Inquiry member, Michael McCormack said urgent action is needed.

The findings of the 209-page report were tabled in Parliament earlier this year, making 21 recommendation to government including better resourcing communities under pressure from large FIFO workforces, removing tax benefits for companies using transient workforces, a study into the impact on communities and the development of a housing strategy.

Christensen said funding to support the Australian Bureau of Statistics in obtaining data on population figures in FIFO communities was essential in allowing the government to fund infrastructure and services in communities affected by a FIFO workforces.

"Updating census data on the amount of FIFO workers is of paramount importance,” he said.

McCormack, who is also the Member for Riverina, said if a Coalition government was elected the FIFO report would be revised and implemented, The Daily Mercury reported.

"This report has now been out since February this year and it has done nothing but sit on the shelves of the Labor Government and gather dust," he said.

Earlier this year Isaac Council asked all local councils at the recent Local Government National Assembly to lobby the Commonwealth to implement the report’s recommendations.

Councillor Anne Baker said implementing the recommendations would support regional communities affected by the work practice.

"Obviously the whole country is affected by the different work practices.

"It is about lobbying the Government to adopt the recommendations and to include local government as a key stakeholder in the implementation."

Independent MP Tony Windsor wrote in the report's foreword that governments of all levels needed to recognise and act on the issues impacting regional communities who were hosting large FIFO workforces.

“….the work practice is eroding the liveability of some regional communities to such an extent that it is increasingly removing the choice to ‘live-in’ rather than simply ‘cash-in,” Windsor wrote.

Windsor said a policy mix was needed to ensure FIFO did not lead to "a hollowing out of established regional towns, particularly those inland".

While other regional councils across the country are also putting pressure on policy makers to take action.

The Pilbara Regional Council’s Lynne Craigie, says the council is looking for a more hands-on approach to the report.

"What we want is we want to see our towns grow, we want to see our population enhanced so it becomes a liveable community for everyone," she said.

"Otherwise we are just having FIFO workers pick the cream out of our communities."

Cloncurry Mayor Andrew Daniels said the federal government must get involved in order to help communities.

"Governments have to take a stance and a policy towards mining companies, give them the incentive, try and get people to stay in these country areas, whether it be through tax incentives or living away from the east coast allowance or something … we've got to find some mutual ground there where people want to be out here," he said.

The mining industry has continued to defend the use of FIFO workforces.

Anglo American Australia chairman Graham Bradley said FIFO had been "absolutely essential" in Australia due to a skills shortage.

While Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Mitch Hooke said the report "should be treated with a deal of scepticism", and vowed to oppose any changes to the tax treatment of FIFO workers.

"Mining and FIFO is not hollowing out the regions in which it operates. It is boosting incomes, attracting families and reducing unemployment," he said.

Key recommendations:

  • Review of funding allocations for FIFO communities so that funding is based on both residents and service populations.
  • Provide funding for the Australian Bureau of Statistics to develop a method to measure the extent of FIFO practices in the resources sector and the service populations of mining communities.
  • Fund comprehensive research to determine the economic impact on the demand for and consumption of local government services and infrastructure from FIFO workforces.
  • Commission a study of the impact of non-resident workers in regional resource towns on the provision of medical services and as a result of this study develop a health policy response that supports the sustainability of regional medical services.
  • Identify areas where local governments affected by FIFO would benefit from skills training programs to meet the needs of councillors and senior staff in local government.
  • Have the National Housing Supply Council to urgently develop and implement a strategy to address the supply of affordable housing in resource communities and report to the House of Representatives by June 27 on the progress of this strategy.
  • Commission a comprehensive study into the health effects of FIFO and lifestyle factors and as a result of this research develop a comprehensive health policy response.
  • Develop a best practice guide for employers with significant non-resident workforces.
  • Commission research on the effect on children and family relationships of having a long-term FIFO parent.
  • Commission research into the economic and social impacts of establishing regional centres as fly-in fly-out source communities.
  • Review the Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act 1986 to limit a range of FIFO incentives.
  • Review the Zone Tax Offset arrangements to ensure that they are only claimable by permanent residents of a zone or special area.
  • Charge the Productivity Commission with investigating a more appropriate form of governance for remote Australia that is flexible and responsive.
  • Establish a dedicated secretariat, within an existing government department and based on the Province of Alberta Oil Sands Sustainable Development Secretariat, with responsibility for consulting with state governments and the resources industry.
  • Develop strategies and targets for achieving fair access to health services for people living in regional and remote areas recognising the use of FIFO health services, providing for appropriate funding and infrastructure support.
  • Require each Regional Development Australia committee to have a health focus in its strategic plan, specifically focussing on long-term workforce and infrastructure planning and the role that FIFO medical practitioners will play in future service delivery.
  • Develop initiatives to encourage the provision of tertiary education providers to resource communities.

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