Labor MP slams inaction

A STATE Government MP has pleaded for coal mining companies to provide decent living standards for their fly-drive workforces, not consign them to “living in dongas cooped up like chooks in a pen”.

ALP Member for Bundamba, Jo-Ann Miller, called for Mines Minister Stirling Hinchliffe to lead the way for a return to coal companies supplying houses and single persons’ quarters in townships.

She singled out BMA for encouraging the fly-drive culture and sitting idly by as mining towns went “down the gurgler” and governments were left saddled with the costs of social dysfunction caused by family breakdowns.

“I do know a couple of the companies are looking at providing decent mining type camps on their mining leases, but I cannot see how it is good to have miners living in dongas cooped up like chooks in a pen,” Ms Miller told State Parliament last week.

“That is not the way miners should be living in this day and age. In fact, I cannot understand why we as a government continue to allow this to occur in 2011.”

Miners should be in the mining towns with their families, with their kids, Ms Miller asserted.

“I can tell you that when they are not, they tend to go out to the coal mining communities for a couple of years and then their families start to break down. The kids miss their fathers. The kids also miss their grandfathers in this situation,” she said.

“It is absolute dysfunction that we as a community cannot afford to keep seeing in the state’s wealthiest industry… the coal mining industry.

“I implore the minister to please talk to the coal companies and tell them we have to go back to the situation where they supply the houses and single’s quarters in the towns.

“That is when the miners and their families can join the local football clubs, the netball clubs and the golf clubs.

“In fact, when we mandated in this state as a condition that coal mining companies had to supply this sort of housing, everyone was on an equal playing field. If you wanted to open a mine, you knew you had to build the 200 or 300 houses.”

Ms Miller, who worked for four years at Blackwater’s Curragh Mine in the 1980s, said she did not “necessarily” agree with the drive in, drive out proposals for that town and others in the Bowen Basin.

“I believe it is a workplace health and safety issue – it is actually dangerous,” she said.

“I recognise that it has been going on for decades, particularly around Blackwater.

“But consider what it is like for the families if their husbands, fathers and grandfathers are killed in a car accident driving along the Capricorn Hwy for the sake of the couple of hours it takes to get to Rockhampton.”

Ms Miller also attacked the camps on the outskirts of Collinsville, in the northern Bowen Basin, labelling them “disgusting, disgraceful” and calling for them to be banned.

“I am very passionate about health and safety matters. I am also passionate about one other thing – which is my absolute abhorrence of fly in, fly out workforces,” she said.

“These fly in, fly out camps do not contribute in any shape, manner or form to the communities.”

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