THE prospect of an Indian coal miner flying jumbo jets full of overseas workers directly into a proposed Galilee Basin mine site has sent shockwaves through the region.
Yesterday it emerged Indian-owned Adani Mining Pty Ltd would consider flying off-shore workers directly to its 2011 acquired Moray Downs property in the Galilee Basin, west of Clermont, where it also proposed to build a new 2500-person mining town.
Several large-scale miners were in confidential talks with the Federal Government about replacing 457 visas with Enterprise Migration Agreements, which would allow the fly in, fly out transportation of overseas labour to tackle massive job shortages in the resources sector.
The move attracted a stern warning from Mines Minister Stirling Hinchliffe about Adani's responsibility to Queenslanders.
"I've given a very clear message to the companies involved, including Mr Adani directly, that we have a very high expectation about the role Queensland workers will play in these projects," Mr Hinchliffe said.
Yesterday Adani maintained it always aimed to exhaust all available work sources in Australia before turning overseas.
"Our commitment is to train Australian workers if they are not skilled to work on our projects, before looking at any options from overseas," a company spokeswoman said.
Adani's $10.1 billion proposed Carmichael Coal Mine falls within the Isaac Regional Council. The three mayoral candidates for the region have weighed in on the debate.
"We spoke to Adani in January and they indicated they were looking at village-style accommodation," Mayor Cedric Marshall said.
"We want to see the mining companies invest back into our communities.
"But we won't have the space or the numbers to provide or house the workforces they need."
Isaac mayoral candidates Ann Crawford and Anne Baker both condemned the idea, describing it as a dangerous step towards 100% FIFO communities.
"It's as though they want to rip the riches out of the middle of the country and put absolutely nothing back," Cr Crawford said.
"We are happy to welcome workers from anywhere into our communities, but as world's best advice has clearly stated and experience has now shown, we want them based here, living here, contributing to our communities and nation building."
Cr Baker acknowledged the skills shortage, but said the key was to ensure companies invested in training workers before jumping on the foreign FIFO bandwagon.
"Companies must be pressured to do the hard yards on training and investment in Queensland workforces and regional economies before being allowed quick fix, fly in, fly out foreign labour," Cr Baker said.
Likewise, neighbouring Barcaldine Regional Council Mayor Rob Chandler feared the move could be a stepping stone to 100% FIFO.
"I tell you what, if this sets precedent for our area we will be dragged kicking and screaming off the tarmac," Cr Chandler said.
He said companies operating in the Galilee Basin had a social responsibility to help towns grow sensibly and sustainably.
"We believe 30% of the workforce should be housed locally," Cr Chandler said.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union rejected the jumbo jet solution, dubbing it "FIFO on steroids".
AMWU state secretary Andrew Dettmer said the mining industry had failed to implement skills training programs of its own over the past few years and now looked to import foreign workers on reduced pay and conditions.
"It doesn't plan and it doesn't develop - it just wants to import workers into jobs that should go to Queenslanders," Mr Dettmer said.
CQUniversity mining communities expert Professor John Rolfe said he had no doubt it was possible to fly overseas workers directly into the outback.
"It's a little bit ironic that many companies are taking money out of the region already, but as soon as it happens on an international level, it becomes a big issue," Prof Rolfe said.
"This is an outcome of rapid growth.
"A fair bit is done on training in Australia but essentially we've missed the boat. There isn't the skilled base here for all the approvals."