The Parliamentary Committee Report on the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Bill 2016 seeks to extend the 100% FIFO ban from large resource projects to all resource projects; and seeks to extend the retrospective provisions relating to the advertising of positions and discrimination of residents of nearby communities when recruiting, to all resource projects, regardless of the size or date of commencement of the project.
In November 2016 the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Bill 2016 was introduced into the Queensland Parliament. From there, it was referred to a Parliamentary Committee for review and consultation.
The Bill, as written, proposes to prohibit “large” resource projects from employing workers on a 100% fly-in fly-out (FIFO) basis.
The Bill also prohibits, retrospectively, owners of large resource projects approved after 30 June 2009 from:
- advertising positions in a way that stops residents in nearby communities from applying;
- stating that residents of nearby communities are not eligible to be employees; or
- discriminating against residents of nearby communities when recruiting workers.
This month, the Parliamentary Committee has released its report on the Bill.
The report not only recommends that the Bill be passed, but that the 100% FIFO ban for ‘large resource projects’ (projects that require an EIS) be broadened to cover all resource projects in the vicinity of a ‘nearby regional community’.
The report also recommends that the current definition of ‘nearby regional community’ be amended to remove the 100 km radius and the requirement that a relevant community have at least 200 residents, and leave the effective radius and minimum size of an affected “community” to the discretion of the Coordinator General.
There are no recommendations in the report to remove the retrospective provisions. In fact, the report suggests that these provisions be amended to apply to all resource projects that have a nearby regional community, regardless of the size of the resource project or its date of commencement.
These retrospective provisions create uncertainty and increase perceived investment risk.
The Bill (if passed) means:
- the Coordinator General uses broad discretion to nominate any town with a population of more than 200 people as a ‘nearby community’; and
- there are no appropriately skilled workers (or workers willing/able to make the often long commute by vehicle),
the owners of FIFO resource projects may have no option but to close (or not proceed with) the project, or breach the law.
- Owners of projects approved after 30 June 2009 may face penalties where they do not advertise positions or hold interviews in a way accessible to residents of a ‘nearby community’.
For example, that would happen if they had used a recruitment firm based in the closest capital city, who conducted face-to-face interviews at their office (rather than by a method available to community residents).