THE adoption of the Strong and Sustainable Resources Communities Bill will end 100 per cent fly in, fly out (FIFO) mining operations and, it is hoped, help safeguard the future of regional communities, however there is concern that if "percentages” favouring local employment are not enforced, job security in the region can't be guaranteed.
The aim of the bill has been to protect job seekers in rural towns by prohibiting the FIFO policy where there is a capable local workforce, but Gai Sypher, who lives outside Capella, said this week she wanted to see a percentage set and enforced that would confirm the majority of work remained with locals.
Ms Sypher, who is also and Executive Member with Regional Development Australia Fitzroy and Central West and campus coordinator at the Emerald campus of the Central Queensland University, said the bill was a move in the right direction, and addressed the existing discrimination issues.
"But unless a percentage is set, then it doesn't solve the problems in our community. Companies could employ half a dozen locals and be compliant.”
Ms Sypher also said that while the FIFO issue was being addressed, there were other concerns for regional communities including the increasing casualisation of the workforce "which is a massive concern”.
"And society at large is accepting it because we all need jobs. When you get sacked, you're going to accept what you are offered because you want the work. So we need to stand together and stop that.”
Ms Sypher said workforce casualisation contributed to a lack of workforce security in a regional town, made it difficult for people to commit to living in a town and becoming part of the town by joining local sporting clubs and keeping children in local schools.
"You've got no sustainability in your community when you don't have commitment to the community. It's eroding the social and moral fibre of our communities.”
Gregory MP Lachlan Millar said the percentage of people employed locally by a mine or large-scale project would be determined on an individual basis with the employers.
He applauded the new bill and said it was essential rural communities were given the opportunity to thrive.
"When you've got 100% fly in, fly out, there's no economic opportunities for the local areas.
"This will make sure that people who are living in the towns will have a chance to get a job there, and then they're also spending their money locally.
"Kids can participate in sporting groups, and it will improve morale because people will feel they can have a job locally, and people can stay and be close to family,” Mr Millar said.
"FIFO does nothing for regional economies, it just destroys morale. And people want to live in these towns because they're good, friendly towns and a good place to bring up kids.”
He said the new legislation affected towns such as Emerald, Clermont, Capella and Tieri.
"In towns like Emerald, over the last three or four years, we have seen businesses close. We have seen people leave town. We have seen schools impacted,” he said.
"We have seen sporting groups, Rotary clubs, Lions clubs and community organisations being impacted by 100 per cent fly-in, fly-out or the fly-in, fly-out mentality in the mining industry.
"Not only does it impact our businesses, but families moving away from towns impacts the local sporting clubs.
"It impacts the local Rugby League fixtures where one year they have a full club of players and the next year they are forfeiting because families have moved away.
"We want coalminers and their families to live in our towns. We need them to live in our towns.”
Both sides of politics last week supported the bill which gives the coordinator general power to punish resource companies - employing for large projects during construction and operation - for discriminating against potential workers because of where they live.
Independent director on the board of the Central Highlands Housing company, Lisa Caffery, said the new bill would help ensure there was a stable population level in smaller towns. "And to be a viable rural community you need a stable population base.”
"It's all about 'live local'. This is a great place to raise your family and school your children. There is lots of work available across a wide range of industries; we even have a university campus here.
"The overarching goal of the bill is to restore a bit of balance and I think it's definitely a positive for the sustainability of rural and regional towns, and it's about giving people the opportunity to choose where they live.
"We don't want to empty our towns out or have single people come in and then desert the town. That doesn't build communities, it destroys communities.”
Ms Caffery said the bill would facilitate the reintroduction of social impact assessments that would protect the value of exisiting communities and ensure new projects added value to a community, whether it was through investment in infrastructure or housing.
"It's important that companies are investing in a community, not just taking people and resources away from us and shrinking and diminishing our projects. We want projects to add more to the communities.”
Ms Caffery said mining was finite and it was also vital to plan for when mining finished. "But mining is just one product from our gross regional product; there's also agriculture, tourism and transport. Our community will still be here when the last shipment of coal goes.
"We don't want to ignore the other industries, and we want to support the workers in those industries as well, so it's always important to consider the social impact of any new project.”
She said the bill highlighted the significance of companies using the resources available to them in the vicinity of an operation.
"From the housing company's perspective, we're pro choice, not anti mining or anti FIFO. And that's the best outcome, that people can have choice.”
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