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Queensland budget | Mine safety a token gesture

A big thumbs down for the Queensland state budget in respect of mining safety
A range of people have hit out at the Queensland Government in respect of its' handling of mine safety.

The Queensland state budget has failed to address significant on-going concerns for the safety and health of mineworkers according to members of parliament and a long term safety advocate.

Jason Costigan, the Queensland Member for Whitsundays has berated the Queensland State Government for its’ move not to establish a mine safety and health authority in Mackay. Mr Costigan said that the Queensland State Government has moved to ‘distance itself’ from a key recommendation of the Parliamentary Select Committee into coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung) to establish the authority.

Mr Costigan said that it (Qld Government) had “failed in its duty of care” to Queensland mineworkers.

The committee’s report released in 2017 recommended to the Queensland Government that the mine safety and health authority be established in Mackay and ensure that the Commissioner of Mine Safety, senior management, mines inspectorate, Coal Workers’ Health Scheme and mobile units are all based in central Queensland.

Mine safety advocate calls for common sense

Long term mine safety advocate and Black Lung Victims Support Group chair Jim Pearce added that it was “common sense” for the authority to be based in Mackay.  “Central Queensland is the heartbeat of the coal industry and all the expertise and technology to treat this disease should be in the same area – easy to access and easy to administer.”

Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Dr Anthony Lynham told media this week that shifting the regulator to Mackay would make it “logistically difficult” to meet the government’s responsibilities to workers at other resource projects.

“I acknowledge that the Parliamentary Select Committee recommended that the regulator should be moved to Mackay,” Dr Lynham said.  “However, our safety inspectors cover safety in mineral mines and quarries, petroleum and gas and explosives, as well as coal mines.”

“We looked long and hard at this recommendation, in consultation with industry and unions. It became clear that we need inspectors who can reach all resources operations right across the state …”

“Dr Lynham is clearly telling everyone to suck eggs.”

Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan.

“That authority needs to be established and it needs to be headquartered in Mackay – for Dr Lynham to talk about the geographic challenges that would create is complete and utter rot.  “We needed to make the system better going forward, I know that the government has failed in its duty of care. So much for Labor standing up for the worker.”  Mr Costigan said.

In budget material released by Dr Lynham, he said that “the safety of Queensland mines sites and of mine workers, would be another focus.”

Queensland Budget papers highlight that enhancing the safety and health of mine workers and mine remediation include:

  • $10.4 million to continue to deliver reforms to the regulatory framework for addressing mine dust lung disease in Queensland;
  • $28.5 million to continue managing and remediating the state’s disclaimed mine sites and research into new techniques;
  • $1.7 million over two years for more inspections and audits; and
  • $1.2 million over two years for a mobile screening service, which will help improve the detection of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (black lung), silicosis and other mine dust lung diseases.

Emerging issues in mine safety not being addressed

The amounts allocated in the Queensland budget are believed to be insignificant with respect to the increased royalties that the state has received in the last year. The industry has shown substantial growth in recent times and with that growth comes increased responsibilities for both mines inspection, adequate enforcement of training standards and evidence-based research that supports health and safety legislation in emerging technologies. Substantial legislative challenges exist around issues like automation, emerging health risks,  workplace psychological stressors and a range of potential legislative nightmares surrounding programmable systems technology.

Dale Last the Member for Burdekin spoke to AMSJ in respect of the mine safety centre and black lung “It’s now been over 2 years since the Committee recommended the centre be established and to see no action on that is an absolute disgrace. Labor is trying to convince us that they support the resources industry but failing to provide Health and Safety in the industry is absolute proof that their support is just a façade.”

He said, “This (Black Lung) is a horrible disease and there must be a concentrated effort to prevent it and to support sufferers. The LNP accepts the recommendations from the Select Committee that more needs to be done and, provided the government is genuine about implementing those recommendations, they will have my support.”

“I have serious questions about the recent announcements that I will be raising with Minister Lynham and I expect honest answers so that we can work on a bipartisan basis to address Black Lung and other health concerns as a matter of urgency,” Mr Last said.

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