Canavan calls for temporary FIFO ban

FORMER federal mining minister Matt Canavan wants miners to temporarily ban fly-in, fly-out work to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Canavan calls for temporary FIFO ban Canavan calls for temporary FIFO ban Canavan calls for temporary FIFO ban Canavan calls for temporary FIFO ban Canavan calls for temporary FIFO ban

Even though he is a staunch supporter of the resources sector, Matt Canavan has urged the industry to temporarily ban FIFO.

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Canavan wrote to Minerals Council of Australia CEO Tania Constable suggesting it stop FIFO for the time being for fear of COVID-19 being spread in a remote community.

He accepted the protocols the mining industry, through the MCA, had agreed to but argued they were not enough.

"While you point out that the protocols will ensure the highest levels of health and safety, it is my view that continuing large scale movement of workers from capital cities to small regional towns under FIFO arrangements is untenable while restrictions are placed on other areas of the country," he writes. 

"Small country towns simply do not have the health infrastructure to deal with any outbreak - an outbreak at a mine site would potentially be catastrophic.

"I urge the resources sector to immediately move away from large scale FIFO arrangements, at least between capital cities and mining towns."

Canavan also pointed to the border closures the Queensland and Western Australian governments introduced.

"I believe that mining operations could continue, even under such restrictions, as the industry with government could consider the following further steps: 

  • The relocation of capital city based mining workers to regional centres that do not have community transmission of COVID-19.  This could include basing rostered-off workers in larger regional towns where there is plenty of available hotel accommodation;
  • Critical workers who may have to come from other areas to abide by self-isolation requirements; and
  • Enhanced testing of workers who fly to mine sites for COVID-19 itself, that is, going beyond just symptom and temperature checks." 

Constable does not share Canavan's views on the risks of FIFO and drive-in, drive-out work forces, pointing to the strict national COVID-19 health and safety protocols the industry had adopted.

"These protocols ensure FIFO and DIDO resources workers can safely move in and out of regional and remote areas while observing strict health measures," she said. 

"FIFO and DIDO workers are essential to keep mines open and operating and supporting their local communities. Families, communities and small businesses across regional Australia and in our major cities depend on the mining industry.

"The minerals industry recognises it has a special responsibility to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to stay safe during the pandemic.

"Under the protocols, the industry has ceased non-essential face-to-face contact with remote communities while supporting community-led health planning and preparedness.

"Special arrangements are also in place where workers are resident near remote communities, including area restrictions and monitoring.

"The MCA is working with all governments, relevant authorities and the union movement to protect local communities, keep people in work and sites operating where it is safe to do so."