The Queensland Government approved 100% fly-in, fly-out rosters for two coal mines in Central Queensland. After Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney announced 650 jobs would be pulled from Brisbane and 250 from Cairns – locking out our readers from work in their own towns – publisher Australian Regional Media took up the fight.
FLY-in, fly-out mining threatens to destroy the very heart of regional communities nationwide and in Queensland mining communities, it was risking their future.
The Queensland Government approved 100% fly-in, fly-out rosters for two coal mines in Central Queensland. After Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney announced 650 jobs would be pulled from Brisbane and 250 from Cairns – locking out our readers from work in their own towns – publisher Australian Regional Media (ARM) took up the fight.
Locals had to watch visiting miners arrive from 1000km away and take up work on a site just 5km from their homes.
ARM used the combined firepower of its 10 daily newspapers and associated websites across the state to push for change. Within three months, the government’s FIFO policy was all-but-abandoned. There are 10,000 jobs in the pipeline for proposed coal mines in regional Queensland. The FIFO battle won for these communities ensures they will never again face a government robbing them of work.
The campaign, led by reporter Owen Jacques, began in mid-April, 2014, with a small town mayor warning that hers was not the only community at risk of losing its identity. The Mackay Daily Mercury and Rockhampton Morning Bulletin – newspapers that have serviced their regions for more than a century – took on the cause with gusto. The Gladstone Observer joined the fight, knowing all too well the risks of FIFO as major gas projects sprung up on nearby Curtis Island. In the south, the Toowoomba Chronicle added its own pressure as local councillors feared upcoming projects could be built and run by outsiders.
Soon a petition sprung up. With our support, it leapt from a few hundred to more than 1000. The wider campaign targeted the double speak of politicians who once vowed to end the practice, then refused to discuss why their resolve had weakened. It took aim at promises made by the then-Premier and his Deputy which no longer lined up. It shone a light on a mining company scheme to use an entirely fly-in, fly-out workforce for 3500 workers at a planned mine, even as communities rebelled.
Soon the government’s own backbenchers were seeking cover. Regional MP Jason Costigan came out publicly against his own party. LNP stalwart Vaughan Johnson described the policy as “100% evil”. Coalition MPs Michelle Landry and George Christensen used federal clout to rally against their state counterparts. They intended to push for a formal change in party policy, forcing the Queensland Government into a corner. The following day, the government backed down.
The Deputy Premier praised “the regional media for bringing this issue to light”. In the election that followed, the then-Opposition vowed to refuse any future mining project from using an entirely outsider workforce.
The new government has now ordered an inquiry into fly-in, fly-out practices in Queensland.
Note: Advertisements featuring this story carry an APN copyright image of an employee of BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA). BMA does not endorse statements made in the advertisement.