Representatives from the Queensland and New South Wales coal industries have been brought together for the first time to formulate a national approach to mine safety. However, industry participants came away feeling that the four-hour Joint Coal Safety Forum was superficial and that no meaningful dialogue took place.
On the agenda of the forum, hosted on July 12 in Wollongong by NSW mineral resources minister, Eddie Obeid, and his Queensland counterpart, Tony McGrady, were regulatory reform, work practices, training and education, compliance and enforcement strategies, and investigation procedures and protocols.
The mines departments of the two States have many seemingly irreconcilable differences concerning safety issues, from legislation to the testing of intrinsically safe equipment and the use of self-rescuers.
None of these thorny issues were dealt with in any depth, said one participant, and none of the issues were debated. He said that at no time did either of the two mines departments indicate a willingness to revise their position or commit to review an area of dissent. Industry representatives felt virtually sidelined.
Obeid said the forum provided the opportunity for both States to identify key safety issues and prevent the duplication of resources in research and legislation.
"Much of the work arising from [this] forum will be handled by the tripartite Mine Safety Councils already established in NSW, and soon to be established in Queensland. These councils will have the important role of giving advice and making recommendations to each minister about the health and safety of coal mine workers," Obeid said.