In this Alert, Shane Entriken, Special Counsel, provides commentary on the key Queensland LNP and ALP policy positions around FIFO workforces and what it potentially means for current and future projects.

The political landscape is uncertain with the election result in Queensland still undecided. The policies that the Queensland ALP have proposed in relation to the mining sector pose some important considerations for families, business and the State. 

One of the key issues for discussion has been resource projects in areas that are not considered remote, and whether an entirely fly-in, fly out (FIFO) workforce should be allowed. The policy positions of the LNP and ALP are as follows:

The LNP

  • Disputes the impact of 100% FIFO, saying 100%FIFO only counts for a pittance of the total mining workforce;
  • Supported the employment model in the past, saying it spreads the wealth of the resource regions, but is now guaranteeing no new mine will be approved using the employment model;
  • States there is no going back on existing 100% FIFO arrangements;
  • Believes it's a commercial decision for mine operator BMA in the case of the two Queensland 100% FIFO mines; and
  • States it would be unfair and unjust to change the conditions of the approvals process after those operations have been set up in that way.

ALP Policy

Under a Queensland ALP Government, all existing 100% FIFO arrangements will be assessed within the first 100 days of Government.

Furthermore, key amendments to the Act will include, but are not limited to:

  • the requirement that Coordinator-General consider, monitor and report on whether employees are being provided with a choice to reside in established regional communities when making an approval decision on an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS);
  • a blanket ban on 100% FIFO where resource projects are located near a resource town or regional community;
  • the requirement of resource companies to:
    • invest in permanent housing options in regional communities to ensure the ongoing liveability and sustainability of these communities; and
    • provide access to 24-hour mental health and support services for resident/non-resident employees;
  • the requirement of the Coordinator-General to report annually to Parliament on the number of non-resident works in the Bowen Basin and Surat Basin area, as well as provide an assessment of flow-on social, community and economic impacts on regional communities; and
  • the reintroduction of Social Impact Assessments into the EIS approval process.

Key considerations

The key drivers of every business are different. However, a change from FIFO to residential, or a mix of both, is a huge change and requires many issues to be properly worked through.

Such a change has impacts on a large number of areas including the roster worked, remuneration levels, sustainability of air service contracts and infrastructure, communities, house and rental prices and availability, regional diversity in residential locations as well as for FIFO hubs, health and safety, cost structures, productivity, schooling, health, family, partners’ career and business sustainability and flexibility.

There is no substitute for planning and having a strategy in place. Once the results of the Queensland State election are finalised, those projects employing a 100% FIFO workforce will need to be ready for the changes that will come and the additional scrutiny their projects will soon face.