Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) will look at legislative changes aimed at stamping out unfettered fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) and contract employee numbers at Queensland mines, in a bid to protect the viability of the state’s regional and remote communities.
State KAP leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter has also called on the Palaszczuk Government to join the fight, asking Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick during Question Time this week if he would expand current anti-FIFO legislation.
Minister Dick responded by advising of a review of the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act 2017, which banned 100 per cent FIFO when enacted last year, that would soon take place.
Mr Katter said the social fabric of towns in his electorate, particularly Cloncurry and Mount Isa, was being destroyed by greedy employment practices that ignored their human impact and were all about mining companies delivering more (millions of) dollars to their bottom lines.
He said the issue was rife in mining communities across the state.
Mr Katter said it was outrageous that mines such as zinc enterprise Dugald River, located 70km out of Cloncurry and with a workforce of more than 400 people, were operating with often below only 10 local employees.
“Operators needed to have penalties applied for not meeting the expectations of the local community when it comes to local employment,” he said.
“At the moment all of the mines in the region will come up with one thousand excuses for not having more locals employed.”
Mr Katter said the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act needed to be strengthened to demand that more locally-based workers be employed at mines operating in their region, and to deter the rise of contractual workforces.
“In my region, these massive mining companies are smugly smiling at the local people of Cloncurry and Mount Isa and the people of Queensland and are not under enough pressure to contribute to them,” he said.
“Out there we get barely any of the royalties paid to the government back – the mines dig the dirt out of our ground, take our resources and have a big impact on our local services.
“We welcome mining interest and support the industry overall, but the primary benefit our communities can get out of any mining expansion is local jobs and the hope that wages received can go back to supporting businesses in the town.
“Personally, I have put a lot of work into keeping these mines viable and making sure they have got an environment they can operate sustainably in – but they have got to give something back.”
Mr Katter pointed the finger squarely at companies like MMG and Roundoak, which he said had a terrible scorecard of FIFO and contractors.
According to the latest figures available from the Queensland Resources Council from 2018/19, around 5,750 people were employed in mining in the North West Minerals Province.
More than half of these workers were FIFO, making up 52 per cent of the workforce. Around 1500 of the workers were contractors.
Mr Katter said he suspected current FIFO and contractor figures would be even higher.
“There too many contractors in the workforce for a start – Mount Isa is absolutely full of contractors now and it simply should be this way,” he said.
“We have a government for a reason – if they spent as much time hating these immoral employment practices as they did coal, we would have the fairest mining industry in the world.
“People employed as contractors can’t afford to buy a home, the banks won’t give them money because they don’t have permanent job.
“It all looks good on the bottom line of the mining companies but they are not looking after the towns and by stealth they are ruining the fabric of these communities.”
Mr Katter said the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act 2017 was not doing its job in the North West.
He said the KAP would draft its own legislative changes to ensure the issue was prioritised and acted on with proper penalties given to miners that don’t make an effort to contribute permanent jobs to the local community.