On 9 October 2015 the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee released its “Parliamentary Inquiry report into FIFO and other long distance commuting work practices in regional Queensland” (Parliamentary Inquiry Report). Earlier this month, on 1 October 2015, the Government appointed FIFO Panel made its “FIFO Review Report” (Review Report) publicly available, after being provided to the Minister of State Development at the end of July 2015. Both reports form part of the Queensland Government’s FIFO Review, which aims to introduce choice for employees working at mines located near a resource town or regional community to live near their workplace.
Both Reports recommend legislative reform to prescribe that a social impact assessment process be undertaken for major projects. If this recommendation is implemented it would likely involve the amendment of the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (Qld) or the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld). These pieces of legislation set out and facilitate approval processes for resource projects in Queensland.
The Review Report recommends that the Environmental Protection Act 1994(Qld) be amended to require resource proponents to prepare appropriate workforce, procurement and accommodation plans for proposed resource activities as part of their environmental approval process. It further recommends monitoring and enforcement measures be put in place to ensure compliance with approved workforce, procurement and accommodation plans for new resource activities.
The Parliamentary Inquiry Report recommends that the government consider making changes to anti-discrimination legislation to prevent local workers in regional or mining towns being discriminated against on the basis of where they live for work. The Parliamentary Inquiry Report emphasises that workers should have a genuine choice of where they live for work. It also makes recommendations in relation to the minimum standards for the provision of substantial temporary and permanent accommodation for FIFO workers, such as room design and access to health services and recreational areas and that the standards advise against the practice of ‘motelling’ or ‘hot-bedding’..
Neither Report recommends any form of retrospective action to place limits on existing FIFO workforces. As such, current resource projects with FIFO workforces should not be impacted by changes flowing from the recommendations in the Reports.
The Parliamentary Inquiry Report recognises that some resource operations require total FIFO workforces due to their remoteness or during construction; indicating that future resource projects in remote areas with 100% FIFO workforces may still be acceptable.
Government response to these Reports is expected in early 2016. This may be followed by the introduction of new laws and regulations in regards to FIFO and non-resident workforces.