Dawson MP George Christensen.
Dawson MP George Christensen. Lee Constable

Christensen argues for CQU to examine FIFO effects

DAWSON MP George Christensen says Central Queensland University should be at the front of the queue if federal funding is allocated to analyse the effects of fly-in, fly-out work.

Mr Christensen used a speech in Canberra on Wednesday night to argue the case for CQ University, saying its proximity to the Bowen Basin made it the perfect candidate to examine the recommendations in a report on itinerant work.

The 209-page report - Cancer Of The Bush Or Salvation Of Our Cities - contained 21 recommendations on a range of issues arising from FIFO, including health, children and family relationships and economic and social impacts.

"It (CQ University) has looked into a lot of these issues already. I will be writing to the Minister for Regional Australia asking him, given this committee comes under his purview, to consider the university when it comes to doing this research that has been recommended if that is the way the government indeed wishes to go with this," Mr Christensen said.

During debate in the Federation Chamber about the report, which was compiled by the Standing Committee on Regional Australia, Mr Christensen said people in Dawson were not entirely opposed to FIFO but were against what he called "100% FIFO".

He said compulsory FIFO, which he described as "geographic discrimination", had the potential to destroy communities.

"It is not about the practice itself, but how it is used by the companies," he said."I hear stories ... that when a local goes to apply for a job at this mining operation they are told, 'Sorry, you have to have permanent place of residence in Brisbane'. That is a terrible thing ... (and) should be outlawed."

Capricornia MP Kirsten Livermore and the Member for Hinkler Paul Neville also spoke during the debate.

Ms Livermore, the only Queensland MP on the standing committee that produced the report, detailed some of the issues that led to the inquiry being called.

She said the issue of "choice" was raised throughout the 18-month investigation.

"One of the problems that I saw with this choice argument is that we were getting to a point where, while companies and state governments were constantly defending people's choice to fly-in fly-out, they were ignoring or completely devaluing the choice that people make to live in mining towns or regional inland centres," Ms Livermore said.

"If you get to the point where fly-in fly-out becomes the norm and towns are overtaken by work camps, in defending one part of the population's right to choose to fly-in fly-out you are completely denying a genuine choice to people who want to live, make their lives and make communities in those inland mining towns."

Ms Livermore said the report was an important step in putting the issue on the national agenda."We need to get on the front foot with this," she said.

In praising the report, Mr Neville said lessons could be learned from former premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen

.Mr Neville, who said he was a "great admirer" or Sir Joh, said there were lessons to be learned from the development of Central Queensland towns like Moranbah and Blackwater.

"One of the things he insisted on was that mining companies play a part in the development of railways and the development of settlements," Mr Neville said.

"While I am sure there has always been an element of fly-in fly-out, during the Joh era whole communities developed and have survived."

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