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Mining industry challenged on fly-in fly-out social issues
15/06/2012 - The mining industry has been accused by MPs of not taking responsibility for the social and financial problems caused by fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers. Greg Roberts
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Bendigo MP, Labor's Steve Gibbons told the federal parliamentary inquiry into FIFO and DIDO (drive-in drive-out) he believed resources companies left it to government to tackle problems unrelated to their profits.
He said he had come to that conclusion after viewing massive port and rail expansions at Port Hedland during the Regional Australia Committee's travels across Australia's mining regions.
"Mid-sized to large Australian companies seem to be very efficient at how they plan their future," he told the inquiry.
"It seems to me they do very little in terms of planning for their own workforce needs.
"They rely on federal and state governments to do that and my personal view is they need to do more about that.
"Don't you think companies have a responsibility to provide at least in part, workforce training, planning and to make sure you've got a ready qualified workforce they can access."
The inquiry comes after recent media publicity about FIFO mining projects causing serious social problems.
Large, temporary and mostly male workforces were squeezing health services, causing the highest housing prices in Australia, dangerous roads and problems including alcohol, gambling and sexual assault, according to recent reports.
Fellow Federal Labor MP Kirsten Livermore whose central Queensland electorate Capricornia includes large coalmining regions affected by FIFO, questioned whether the miners were mapping their footprint on towns.
"If you start having a FIFO workforce, at what point do you cross over and start accepting some responsibility for Busselton or Broome or wherever a proportion of your workforce comes from?" she asked.
"Such as, that council needs a bigger carpark for their airport or whatever."
Representatives from Australia's second largest miner, Rio Tinto, appeared at the inquiry, arguing that FIFO and FIDO were essential due to the remote regions they operated in.
There was a lack of suitably skilled local people in many regions, Rio's head of government affairs Mark O'Neill told the inquiry.
He argued that government should take responsibility to adjust to changes in demographics and geographic demand for basic services.
Rio paid about $5 billion in corporate income tax and over $2 billion in state royalties in 2011, he said.
It suited employees and their families to work as FIFO workers, said Lisa Matthews from the Australian Mines and Metal Association.
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