AMMA has this week lodged a detailed written response to the Queensland Labor Government’s legislation that intends, among other things, to ban miners in the state from operating 100% fly-in, fly-out operations within 100km of a community as small as 200 people.

The Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Bill (SSRC Bill), currently subject to an Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee inquiry, describes its intention as ‘to ensure that residents of communities in the vicinity of large resource projects benefit from the operation of the projects’.

However, AMMA’s position as strongly advocated in its response to the Bill, is that if the legislation proceeds unchanged it risks creating significant red-tape and costly challenges for companies looking to invest in Queensland’s resource industry, as well as creating significant risks for staff.

“The proposed SSRC Bill and associated Social Impact Assessment Guidelines is poor policy that may very well create sovereign risk issues that will impact future resource jobs, growth and investment in Queensland’s resources sector,” explains AMMA’s principal economic and industry policy adviser, Tristan Menalda.

“There are various provisions that would add additional unnecessary layers of bureaucracy, red tape, costs and delays. For instance, the requirement for a proponent of a large resources project to prepare a detailed social impact assessment on top of an environmental impact statement only adds more costs and time to what is already a difficult process.”

In addition to recommending the removal of the retrospective application of the Bill (from 30 June 2009), one of AMMA’s key recommendations is that the 100km radius which triggers the proximity requirements of this proposed legislation be reduced to a more practical range of 30km.

Other issues and concerns highlighted in AMMA’s submission include:

  • Safety and fatigue: Concerns particularly arise around road safety issues, given the Bill appears to assume a mine employee can safely commute up to 100km in each direction, likely to be on unsealed rural roads, from site after long, labour-intensive shifts.

 AMMA recommends that amendments be made to the Bill to account for and prioritise employee safety, fitness and work readiness in determining a “nearby regional community” for the purposes of the Bill to any particular project / development.

  • Workforce management plans: AMMA is concerned that the proposal for requiring significantly expanded workforce management plans will add unnecessary, time consuming and expensive process burden for project investors and proponents.

 There are further concerns that the social impact assessment Guideline intention to prescribe where mining operations can source employees from will be counterproductive to the industry’s progress in diversifying its workforces, including targeted recruitment of women and Indigenous Australians.

  • Impractical community sizes: In addition to the problems caused by the excessive 100km radius for the definition of a ‘nearby regional community’, AMMA is concerned by the small population size of 200 people that the Bill uses to define a ‘regional community’. AMMA recommends a more practical threshold figure of 1,000 people.
  • Union consultation requirements: With one of the Bill’s intentions to provide unions greater oversight of a resource project’s social impact assessment, AMMA submits that it is unnecessary and inappropriate for any state legislation to attempt to accord unions any role in new project workforce arrangements beyond their rights and powers under the Fair Work Act 2009.

“While AMMA and the resource industry appreciate that local communities should benefit from nearby resource projects, the practical application must be sensible, safe and commercially astute,” Mr Menalda concludes.

“However what the industry has been confronted with is proposed tabled legislation that may in fact contradict the best intentions of the Bill – being that if Queensland’s resource industry is negatively impacted by the additional red tape and regulatory burden, the entire state may miss out on future opportunities.

“We urge the Committee to consider the raft of recommendations and amendments put forward by AMMA that would go a long way toward solving the practical and theoretical impacts of this legislation.”

When cleared for publication by the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee, AMMA’s submission on the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Bill will be available for public viewing via the Committee’s website as well as the AMMA submissions page.

For an advance copy of our submission or for any other questions or comments relating to this matter, please contact Tristan Menalda on (03) 9614 4777 or via [email protected].