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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (12:49): I rise to highlight an often overlooked aspect of the current resources boom. The view of many across this country is that the resources boom is about numbers on a page, about dollars on a budget paper, and about the economy and prosperity. But for families in and around mining regions, particularly in Queensland and Western Australia, the mining boom is also about people. It is about making an honest living, putting a roof over your family's head, putting food on the table and building a better life. These people, these families, in mining are rightfully concerned about how the boom has and will affect them.

As the state government in Queensland considers mining company BMA's application for a 100 per cent fly-in fly-out workforce at its Cavell Ridge mine near Moranbah, it should consider the people behind the numbers and the dollar signs. Yes, mineworkers in the Bowen Basin should have the right to live where they want to live, but more importantly they must have a real choice—whether that be in Brisbane, Mackay or in one of the hinterland coal towns. There must be a real mix of options.

The town of Moranbah, a two-hour drive from Mackay, has been home to mining families for 40 years, and certainly 100 per cent fly in fly out poses an economic and social risk to that town. But a 100 per cent fly-in fly-out workforce also would harm the regional centre of Mackay, which is the city of choice for many mining families and workers in the Bowen Basin who choose the drive-in, drive-out option. If the state government allows it, mining companies will fly their workers in from Brisbane and elsewhere almost direct to the mine site, completely bypassing Mackay.

Services and facilities like schools, hospitals, sporting clubs and shopping centres in the Mackay region rely on the growth in mining families choosing to live close to their employment. A 100 per cent fly-in, fly-out workforce will bypass and undermine these services, particularly in the smaller towns closer to the mines. The potential outcome here is to kill communities and remove a great lifestyle choice for mining families—this being one where they can live in a real community and work with a minimal commute.

Mining companies do rightly complain about the lack of a local workforce to fill the jobs that the need. Well, part of the problem here lies with the state Labor government, which has done nothing to make mining regions, which are creating the wealth of the state, more liveable communities. Almost $1.1 billion went into the state coffers in the 2010 financial year through royalties on the coal that was exported through the ports of Hay Point, Dalrymple Bay and Abbott Point—all of which are in the Mackay region. And that was in the middle of the global financial crisis. The year before that, we contributed more than $2.2 billion and in the last financial year, just ended, there will have been another multibillion dollar bonanza in royalties from our region for the state of Queensland.

But the Queensland Labor government siphons off the majority of these royalties to benefit the south-east, where it can purchase more votes for the dollar. It has neglected the regions and does not have the common sense to invest in the necessary infrastructure and social needs of regions that service their big cash cow of mining. And Anna Bligh's Labor mates in Canberra will not only back her up; they will try to outdo her with their mining tax.

What will happen to all the revenue the Labor government's mining tax will generate? If Canberra gets its hands on mining dollars, does anyone seriously believe that a fair share is going to come back to places like the Mackay region where the money is being generated? The reality is that it will go to Sydney and to Melbourne and to the next big budget black hole that results from Labor's continual spending sprees.

I did have to laugh because in the Weekend Australian on 23 July the Minister for Regional Australia pointed out how Labor had helping mining communities with—wait for it—an increase in the remote area allowance, which tops up welfare payments for people in those areas. If you get a job in the mines and you move your family to a mining town, it must be comforting to know that if you lose your job you can collect just that little bit more from Centrelink than if you stayed in Sydney.

The same minister in the same article maintains that there is 'no role' for government to prescribe a precise formula for fly in fly out. I reject that statement. It is government that issues mining permits and sets the conditions for mining activity. It is government that collects billions of dollars in mining royalties—or perhaps the mining tax. Government has a role to play in supporting the interests of mining regions and the families who work in the industry. If weak state and federal Labor governments continue to neglect the regions driving this economy, they will ensure that fly in fly out is encouraged and we will all endure the pain and see absolutely none of the gain from this boom.


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Authorised by George Christensen MP, 2/21 Milton Street, Mackay QLD 4740