FIFO-only policy may affect other centres, warns mayor
A QUEENSLAND mayor, grappling with two new coal mines operating entirely with out-of-town staff, warns other resource hotspots - they could be next.
Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker fears future mining or gas developments could shut out locals, just like they had been in Central Queensland.
The recruiting scheme could be applied to a suite of enormous mines proposed for the Galilee Basin, west of Rockhampton, and gas development surrounding Toowoomba.
Just 20km from the centre of Moranbah, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance is preparing to open its second enormous coal mine staffed only by workers who fly in from Cairns and south-east Queensland.
The strict hiring conditions by BMA's Caval Ridge and Daunia projects remain in place even after crumbling coal prices have cost more than 8000 Queensland mining roles in the past two years.
BMA helped contribute to that figure by shutting down unprofitable coal mines Gregory and Norwich Park in 2012.
Six months after Gregory was shuttered, BMA and the Queensland Government announced it would begin recruiting for the two new mines.
Locals were not considered unless they could relocate to one of the target areas either north or south.
Toowoomba Surat Basin Enterprise boss Shane Charles said it was a risk for his region, particularly with gas jobs to top more than 14,000 by 2024.
He said while gas companies were so far "talking the right language" on using local workers, he said there should be no support for 100% FIFO from those who want strong regional communities.
The use of 100% FIFO is a treasured option for developers because they can pay lower wages to industry newcomers, speed up their recruitment process and potentially weaken the union influence on workers.
BMA's other six mines employ a combined 4000 "residential" workers - these roles are available for locals.
The Daunia mine was opened in September; sister project Caval Ridge is to begin mining before year's end.
For Cr Baker, the precedent set by total fly-in, fly-out, or FIFO, is something "everyone should be watching".
"While it is currently happening here, there is nothing to say it could not be applied elsewhere," Cr Baker said.
"The single biggest threat for regional resource communities is 100% fly-in, fly-out.
"This is not just about Moranbah or Isaac. From Gladstone through to Townsville, and whether they realise it or not, they are all affected."
The 100% FIFO policy for the two mines was installed by the former Labor Government which has now changed its tune in Opposition.
Before it took power, the LNP vowed to oppose 100% FIFO.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and the government changed its policy after winning a landslide election in 2012.
Mr Seeney said these decisions would now be left to Queensland Co-ordinator-General Barry Broe, not politicians.
Both Mr Seeney and BMA have said the 100% FIFO arrangement "spreads the wealth" of resources throughout the state, and gives workers more freedom to choose where they live.
Mr Seeney said the government "wants to give workers a choice, rather than telling them where to live".
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