Mining union calls for more action on FIFO bill

The announcement of a new bill to end discrimination against local job applicants at BMA coal mines has been met with scepticism by the CFMEU.

Member for Dawson George Christensen tabled the Fair Work Act (2009) Amendment 351A ‘Discrimination based on where a person lives’ on Monday, backed by Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry.

Christensen said he expected support from the CFMEU, however Mining and Energy district president Steve Smyth said he needed more details about the proposed amendment as to how it would actually work.

“Until we hear more information about whether this bill would actually end compulsory 100 per cent FIFO, this looks like nothing more than a popularity stunt by Landry and Christensen,” Smyth said.

“If this really will give workers at Daunia and Caval Ridge a real choice about where they live and whether they work FIFO, of course we would support it.”

“There’s a Federal Election coming up and these are two of the most marginal seats – is this bill just a panicked attempt to regain the support of the community in Central Queensland from two MPs who have sat on their hands for the past two years?

“After all, we won’t forget that Michelle Landry stood beside then Prime Minister Tony Abbott as he defended the 100 per cent compulsory FIFO arrangements at the opening of Caval Ridge.

“When the Federal Coalition Government dismissed our region’s concerns about compulsory FIFO, we heard nothing but resounding silence from Landry and Christensen.”

Smyth said if the two MPs were serious about ending 100 per cent FIFO hiring policies at the Daunia and Caval Ridge coal mines, they would have to push the Government to also end preferential tax breaks for companies employing FIFO workers.

UPDATE

In a conversation with Australian Mining this afternoon, MP George Christensen rejoindered Smyth's remarks, indicating they were both interested in achieving the same outcomes.

“I saw the CFMEU’s reaction, and it’s typical,” Christensen said.

“The CFMEU have been pushing for a solution to this problem, and when a solution is presented that’s sensible, they come out and shitcan it in the media.

Christensen said that he had always always spoken against 100 per cent FIFO policies as well as tax breaks for companies that employ FIFO workers.

“We all know that the CFMEU is just an affiliate member of the Australian Labor Party, so anything proposed by an LNP politician is not going to get their support, regardless,” Christensen chuckled.

“But they are calling for something which I do agree with, and that is the end of tax concessions to mining companies to facilitate FIFO arrangements.

"The disappointing thing is we’ve come to the point where we’ve moved legislation as private members, which is highly unusual, and we’re being criticised by the very people we’re trying to help."

Christensen said he felt compelled to table the new private members bill after it became clear that the Queensland FIFO inquiry would take no action on the only 100 per cent FIFO mines in the state.

“The one caveat they’ve had of all the recommendations they put forward including the idea of having anti-discrimination provisions against geographic discrimination, the caveat is that none of it will apply to already approved 100per cent FIFO mines,” he said.

"It's like saying we'll bring in an anti-racial discrimination laws, but they won't apply to racists, its ridiculous."

The private members bill was drafted and finalised by Christensen and Landry in June this year, fuelling their claims that FIFO inquiry chariman Jim Pearce, who had formerly criticised the suggestion, had copied their idea for an amendment against geographic discrimination by employers.

In repsonse to public misapprehension about the bill being used to attack FIFO workers, Christensen said he understood that some people would feel that way.

"There are people out there, probably in the CFMEU, that would like to see a closed shop where no-one outside of Moranbah for instance would be able to get a job at a Moranbah mine: Quite clearly that’s ridiculous," he said.

"All I’m asking for is for the best person to fill the role, not simply the best person who lives in Brisbane or Cairns.

"If someone from mackay or Moranbah, Dysart or Townsville has the best skills for the job, why should they be denied ability to apply for it."

The member for Dawson also clarified that identifying geographic discrimination in the Fair Work Act would not apply to positions where it was necessary for the employee to be a resident in the local area, giving the example of a plumber employed on 24 hour callout basis.

Despite the responses from Steve Smyth about the proposed legislation this morning, Christensen said he will meet with the CFMEU next week to lobby for their support on the new bill.

Image: Daily Mercury

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