OPINION Queensland’s embattled mining safety Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham has quelled rumours that he had intended to step down at the next State Government election. The news comes amidst claims that the Minister has overseen a range of mismanagement with the state’s mining safety regulatory processes that have been linked to the deaths and injury of mineworkers.
Speaking to a media conference today, Dr Lynham confirmed he had nominated again for his inner Brisbane seat of Stafford.
“Every year there’s rumours that I will not be contesting … I think the LNP want me out for some reason. I think it’s because I deliver on lower power prices every single year.”
When asked again what his decision was, he said: “My bid is in with the ALP, I’ve nominated, I’m ready to go.”
While Dr Lynham may have shown ability to deliver on lower power prices each year, many are questioning the Minister’s ability to deliver safety and security for the mineworkers of Queensland.
Dr Lynham has faced intense scrutiny over his role in oversight and lack of action from the State’s Mining Safety regulatory body following the deaths and serious injuries affecting mineworkers.
Five months’ ago Queensland’s Opposition Mine Safety spokesperson, Dale Last, told Parliament that the Minister failed to use a range of powers under Part 12 of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act to conduct a board of inquiry into serious accidents across the state.
Since that time, many high potential accidents have continued to occur, with the Grosvenor underground mine incident being the latest almost deadly incident.
Minister Lynham has since acted and called a Board of Inquiry following the incident which is set to examine a range of gas incidents at predominantly Anglo American underground coal mines. Of course, the scope of the investigation will exclude the role of Government in the latest horrific incident.
I have learned that there has been a long history of gas incidents at the Grosvenor mine which were reported to the Minister’s department. Records reveal that at least 98 gas incidents had been reported to the mining safety regulator over the span of years while Lynham has been at the helm but sadly, lack of action to force corrective action on high gas levels has not been at the forefront of the Minister’s safety plans…or has it?
Dale Last previously called for Dr Lynham to resign or do the job properly amidst his handling of mining safety issues and what is regarded as ‘blatant failures’ to take action as a Minister of the crown.
Mine safety failures perpetuated
Dr Lynham has held the post of Minister of mine safety since February 2015 and has regularly courted controversy surrounding inaction on mining safety issues.
Lynham’s first major debacle began in early 2016. He oversaw significant failures in the management and administration of Black Lung in the State that ultimately has seen more than 120 mineworkers acquiring the disease over several years.
Throughout 2016 and 2017 Lynham was repeatedly accused of protecting the public service bureaucracy by then Stephen Smyth and later the CFMEU’s Mining and Energy Division General Secretary Andrew Vickers.
In 2017 as the extent of Queensland’s Black Lung failure continued to emerge, Vickers called for the sacking and resignation of Dr Lynham following his insensitive and inadequate response to the Queensland inquiry into black lung disease, including questioning the scientific evidence for lower dust levels.
At the time Vickers said “He has permanently lost trust with the victims of black lung disease – we believe he is running defense for those in his department. Black lung victims are on death row and have no time for a Minister to prevaricate and delay just because his department is nervous about their negligence.”
The results of a recent report into the progress of Black Lung reforms by Queensland’s Auditor General found that the Minister’s Department had not provided transparent information regarding the progress of Black Lung reforms and that many had simply not been implemented despite the Ministers assurances to the public that action was forthcoming.
Rap sheet on failure to deliver
Lynham’s rap sheet on failure to deliver is a long one. Time after time commitments have been broken to mineworkers on reforms for safety.
Those that have been delivered are largely watered down responses that have seemingly failed to address the growing number of injuries and illnesses in mines and quarries across the State. Just to name a few:
- Dr Lynham failed to deliver on North Goonyella mine fire investigation which ultimately cost the State in order of $90million in lost Royalties.
- Lack of tangible outcomes of safety reviews conducted into historical accidents in the industry;
- ‘Safety Resets’ that Lynham assured the industry and general public would stem the flow of fatal incidents in the industry;
- Government mine Safety Committees shut down over gender representation;
- A mine safety regulator in crisis as safety inspections plummeted;
- Failure to provide a mine safety and health centre in Mackay close to industry;
- Significant issues associated with mine gas monitoring reforms (which clearly didn’t prevent the latest Grosvenor disaster);
- Failure to ensure inspection rates of mines remained high despite 11500 incidents since 2013;
- Failure to use power to investigate incidents for more than five years;
- Failure to meet with workplace fatality victims groups.
The list goes on and on and on…..
To his credit, Dr Lynham delivered a version of Industrial Manslaughter to the industry. One that safety experts believe will fail to deliver tangible outcomes on mine safety and that it is highly unlikely a prosecution will ever be successful.
A game of survivor
When those high flyers in the corporate world fail to deliver outcomes or preside over huge losses, a price is paid…and it’s usually their job. It seems a wee bit different in the Queensland Government.
Of course, those who understand the mining industries’ purple circles know all too well that some are defined as “protected species,” some remain because of their connections and others remain because “sometimes you need a village idiot” in the job for a variety of reasons.
Dr Lynham is clearly an articulate and intelligent man and one wouldn’t even suggest it could be the latter. So that may leave it up to connections.
It’s clear Lynham has built some allies. He’s of course closely aligned from a factional perspective with the Queensland Premier. One of the others, it seems, may just be in his purple circle. That one just happens to represent the rights of mineworkers in Queensland.
Stephen Smyth from the CFMEU might make the odd call to the Minister (and did we mention the odd flight in the Government Jet – we’ll leave that for later).
Interestingly, though despite apparent failure after failure, fatality after fatality, debilitating injury after debilitating injury, mine fire after mine fire…Mr Smyth has stuck by his seemingly good mate and has never called for a resignation.
After all, that’s what ‘purple circle’ mates are for, aren’t they?
Sticking by your mates through thick and thin is where it’s at! Even if sometimes your mate cocks up and mismanages a few odds and sods.
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