Article – Northern development report recommends sweeping changes to FIFO mine worker practice and road infrastructure in Western Australia

8 September 2014
Tyne McConnon
ABC Rural
Western Australia has featured heavily in a parliamentary report recommending ways to develop Northern Australia.
The main recommendations were for improved infrastructure and the making the practice fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) work less attractive for resource companies.
The report, called Pivot North, was tabled in Federal Parliament yesterday and will form part of the Federal Government’s White Paper on Northern Australia.
In its recommendations the report stated there should be a review of FIFO tax incentives as well as the existence of FIFO camps within 60 kilometres of towns.
The CEO of the Pilbara Regional Council Tony Friday says he thinks it’s a great idea.
“I think it’s long overdue as it’s something that has been broadly recognised,” he said.
“FIFO work practices have been a necessary evil, there’s no way local communities could have coped with sudden influxes of 5,000 plus people.
“But there is no justification in my view for operational workforces to be fly-in-fly-out.”
However not everyone agrees.
Shannon Burdeu from the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia says she was shocked by some of the points, especially those concerning the FIFO camps.
“It is a bit of an odd recommendation,” she said.
“I guess the resources sector has a variety of different work rosters that we do see given the different phases throughout construction.
“So it does make sense for certain operations to have worker accommodation that’s close to the site.
“To provide tax disincentives against a company’s choice is not something CME would support.”
Ms Burdeu says if such recommendations were to eventuate it would hurt the mining sector.
“It would certainly add costs to a sector that is already struggling.”
The recommendations for improved infrastructure included upgrades to main roads and also rest-stop facilities.
Shannon Dawson is vice president of the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Western Australia.
He says more ‘stand-over’ facilities would help to address driver fatigue, as well as animal welfare.
“For drivers definitely showers and maybe some rooms and food facilities,” he said.
“For the livestock they need to be able to get off and get some access to water and perhaps even feed.”
The sealing of the notorious Tanami Road was also one of the key recommendations made in a final report.
The road, which has been called one of the worst in Australia, runs from Halls Creek in Western Australia in to the Northern Territory.
The CEO of the Halls Creek Shire Rodger Kerr-Newell says he wasn’t surprised to hear the Tanami in the recommendations.
“We put a lot of work and effort into the submissions and the work we did with the Parliamentary Inquiry when they came through.”
Having the Tanami sealed Mr Kerr-Newell says will not only benefit the local communities along the way but will also ‘unlock the Kimberley’.
“It makes the journey from where most people live in Australia up the Tanami 1,100 kilometres shorter,” he said.
“It changes the course of national security when looking after the northern border of Australia.
“It also supports the pastoral sector, which is one of the big contributors to Australia’s future, along with mining.
“It allows for further development of tourism.”
Tanami Road sign
Courtesy of ABC Rural