When Queensland’s sudden border closure locks out miners and puts Queensland mines in danger of having to close, you’ve got to wonder if it simply wasn’t thought through or if it was a deliberate swipe at the mining industry. If key workers can’t go to work (or be replaced at short notice), no one can go to work. We know Labor is planning for the closure of coal mines so it’s a valid question to ask. It’s not like the Labor Party is against NSW FIFO workers coming into Queensland to work. After all, it was Labor that issued the approval for Bowen Basin coal mines to employ a 100% FIFO workforce in the first place.
Closing Queensland’s border to key mineworkers at such short notice could have a devastating impact on the State’s economy. And yet tonight’s closure of Queensland’s border looks set to strand FIFO mine workers from interstate. If so, this would be a massive blow to Queensland’s mining industry, which has been widely touted as Queensland’s best hope for a fast economic recovery Post-COVID.
We need urgent clarity from the Queensland Government on this issue. The mining industry is heavily reliant on FIFO workers and if hundreds of these workers are to be barred from entering Queensland it is going to make it very difficult for some of them to operate. Mining, along with agriculture, is crucial to Queensland’s economy, and the government should be doing everything possible to protect it. Arbitrary actions like this border closure that imposes blanket restrictions with almost no notice, could seriously jeopardise the industry’s viability.
The Australian Minerals Council, who represents the nation’s largest mining enterprises, also criticised the move. According to the AMC, the suddenness of the border closure notice had given Queensland miners no time to work out how they will staff their mines properly without the large number of FIFO workers they normally employ.
The Queensland mining sector had one of the best Covid-19 safety frameworks in the country. Their record for keeping mine workers, their families and local communities safe has been exemplary. That’s why I’m calling on the Premier to immediately issue an exemption for FIFO mine workers or risk doing enormous damage to the sector – a sector that has contributed huge amounts of money in royalties to the Queensland Treasury over recent years.