FURY over Central Queensland mines recruiting entirely from beyond their regions could poison support for the Coalition, as Federal MPs turn on their state counterparts.
The fight is over two BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance coal mines – Caval Ridge and Daunia near Moranbah – which will not hire local workers, using 100% fly-in, fly-out commuters instead.
The now-operating Daunia mine and soon-to-be finished Caval Ridge hired about 1000 workers, but only if they lived within 100km of Brisbane or Cairns.
Although the former Bligh Labor Government opened the door to the arrangements, the industry downturn and subsequent job losses are increasing local frustrations.
There are reports of would-be workers moving to the Sunshine Coast in the hope of commuting back into their home towns.
Labor state member for Mackay Tim Mulherin on Tuesday described the arrangements as “postcode apartheid”.
Coalition member for Dawson George Christensen and Capricornia’s Michelle Landry represent the towns of Mackay, Rockhampton, out to Collinsville, Moranbah and Dysart – each directly affected by the recruiting policies.
They have met with Queensland Acting Premier Jeff Seeney to ask for action, although nothing was promised.
The two will now meet with BMA top brass a week from now (MAR 17) to discuss their concerns.
Ms Landry said there was a lot of voter anger about the issue which was not going away.
“I think that (the state government) needs to understand this 100% fly-in, fly-out is having a very negative affect on our communities in Central Queensland,” she said.
Mr Christensen said allowing companies to recruit only from certain areas – as supported by Mr Seeney – amounted to “geographic discrimination” and ought to be illegal.
“I have nothing against FIFO workers,” he said.
“But what (BMA) have done is say no one can apply who lives locally and regionally – it’s crazy”.
Mr Seeney said with the Coordinator-General’s approval already given to BMA on Caval Ridge and Daunia, there was little that could be done.
It was not the government’s place to tell workers where they needed to live, he said.
“Mr Mulherin is just the next in a long line of agitators who have tried to make political mileage out of this complex issue,” Mr Seeney said.
If that was true, Mr Mulherin said, why not allow workers to apply from all over Queensland?
Mr Mulherin pointed to changes made by the LNP-appointed Coordinator-General Barry Broe to protect the future of a mining camp in Moranbah last week.
BMA boss Lucas Dow said the company had 4000 workers who lived in Central Queensland communities.
He said rather than advocating changes to the FIFO rules, people should promote Moranbah and other mining towns as worthwhile places to live and work.