Unchecked fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) practices are killing Queensland towns and mining companies don’t have the conscience to care.
That’s the message Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union members sent to the Queensland government during a protest against 100 per cent FIFO projects.
Hundreds of workers marched to state parliament in Brisbane carrying union flags and chanting for local jobs.
Mirani MP Jim Pearce, who chaired a parliamentary committee into long-distance work practices, told the crowd busloads of FIFO workers were being driven past experienced locals in some towns.
“You don’t have to tell me that stinks,” he said.
“In the last few years, I’ve seen the attitude of mining companies turn around to such an extent that they no longer have a conscience.”
One community of particular concern was the central highlands town of Blackwater, which made headlines earlier this year after coal producer BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) announced it planned to outsource 306 positions.
Local boy Kealhan O’Brien, 11, said his sporting teams could be decimated by the move, as parents are forced to relocate for work.
“I’m a local rugby league player and half of my team’s fathers and mothers work at BMA,” the Blackwater North State School captain said.
“If they lost their jobs, I might not even have a football team next year.”
Colourful federal politician Bob Katter also joined son Rob and fellow Katter’s Australian Party MP Shane Knuth at the rally.
Bearing an oversized Australian flag, he said anti-FIFO protesters had been unfairly characterised as extremists.
He earned cheers when he said having the highest wage structures in the world was Australia’s “great aspiration”.
But the chorus turned to boos when organisers were told Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, as well as other senior members of the government, were unable to meet with protest delegates.
A ministerial response to the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resource Committee’s report is expected in coming months.
The report’s recommendations include amending anti-discrimination laws to guard against “postcode discrimination”, improving mental health services offered to FIFO workers and government methods used to persuade companies to hire more locals.