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Black Lung fight “far from over”

More than 2000 mine workers rallied outside Parliament House in Brisbane today to fight for the protection of Queensland coal workers.

Red flags were waving and loud chants were shouted in desperation as the CFMEU members and coal miners called on the Queensland Government to do more for those suffering with Black Lung disease.

Six coal miners have been diagnosed with black lung, or coal workers pneumoconiosis, and CFMEU mining and energy district president Stephen Smyth said enough is enough.

“We’re showing this govt what we’re all about and as we said from the start, the time for talking is over,” Mr Smyth said at the rally.

“The situation is getting worse and worse every day. The Queensland Government introduced a review into black lung, that’s a good start but that’s all they’ve done.

“Week after week, we’ve seen case and case of black lung. Week after week we talk to families of these sufferers. And week after week we keep getting bullshit out of the parliament there with ‘we’re looking into it’.

“Well time for looking into it is over! I’d like to see if one of their family members had this terrible disease, or asbestos, see how they handle it then.”

The CFMEU have recommended the Government consider independent monitoring on coal dust levels, to no prevail.

“We have coal companies continuing to expose workers to coal dust and the Government takes no action to reduce those dust levels,” he said.

“Guess who they trust to monitor the dust? The coal companies – the same ones that expose our members and workers to dust every day of the week.

“This is far from over. We have a government that continues to dodge the issue – the fix is very easy. They need to take real action.

“For 20 years we thought they were doing right by coal mine workers and their families, for 20 years they have been lying. They have been covering it up. We have documents that go back to the 90s – they know what was going wrong.

“The fight is not going to be easy… We won’t accept 20 years of neglect. This is the tip of the iceberg, we believe there could be thousands of workers with this disease.”

With another rally planned for the future, Mr Smyth vowed to not give up until they get some action.

“We don’t intend to rest until we get it fixed and legislated. We fixed asbestos 20 years ago, we will fix black lung – it starts today,” he said.

“If we’ve got to withdraw our labour in our coal mines, that’s what we’ll do – we have got to be fair dinkum about this. We don’t come down here for a good time – this is about action.

“The fight for black lung has never been more important to us, because it literally is the difference between life and death.”

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The Queensland Government released a statement this afternoon, claiming coal dust reforms are a “priority job”.

Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham told Parliament today that action was underway on changes to the regulation of coal dust, which causes coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.

He said the Coal Mining Safety and Health Advisory Committee of union, employer and departmental representatives was working as a priority on measures to tackle the re-emergence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP).

“The advisory committee is already working on a number of important actions, including regulatory changes to the dust monitoring system,” he said.

“It will develop minimum training and experience standards for nominated medical advisers.

“Further, I am very keen to see more transparency on dust monitoring, and I want the committee to look very carefully at how this can be achieved.

“I encourage all the advisory committee members, including the CFMEU, to continue to examine all of the evidence, and work together to provide me with full, frank and considered advice.

“I commit to act swiftly, in consultation with all parties, and to take whatever action is required to protect the health and safety of our coal miners.”

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