19 October 2015

Parliamentary Inquiry Report into FIFO and other long distance commuting work practices in regional Queensland released

On 9 October 2015 the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee released its “Parliamentary Inquiry report into FIFO and other long distance commuting work practices in regional Queensland” (Parliamentary Inquiry Report). Earlier this month, on 1 October 2015, the Government appointed FIFO Panel made its “FIFO Review Report” (Review Report) publicly available, after being provided to the Minister of State Development at the end of July 2015. Both reports form part of the Queensland Government’s FIFO Review, which aims to introduce choice for employees working at mines located near a resource town or regional community to live near their workplace.

Key recommendations

Both Reports recommend legislative reform to prescribe that a social impact assessment process be undertaken for major projects. If this recommendation is implemented it would likely involve the amendment of the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971 (Qld) or the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld). These pieces of legislation set out and facilitate approval processes for resource projects in Queensland.

The Review Report recommends that the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) be amended to require resource proponents to prepare appropriate workforce, procurement and accommodation plans for proposed resource activities as part of their environmental approval process. It further recommends monitoring and enforcement measures be put in place to ensure compliance with approved workforce, procurement and accommodation plans for new resource activities.

The Parliamentary Inquiry Report recommends that the government consider making changes to anti-discrimination legislation to prevent local workers in regional or mining towns being discriminated against on the basis of where they live for work. The Parliamentary Inquiry Report emphasises that workers should have a genuine choice of where they live for work. It also makes recommendations in relation to the minimum standards for the provision of substantial temporary and permanent accommodation for FIFO workers, such as room design and access to health services and recreational areas and that the standards advise against the practice of ‘motelling’ or ‘hot-bedding’..


Neither Report recommends any form of retrospective action to place limits on existing FIFO workforces. As such, current resource projects with FIFO workforces should not be impacted by changes flowing from the recommendations in the Reports.

The Parliamentary Inquiry Report recognises that some resource operations require total FIFO workforces due to their remoteness or during construction; indicating that future resource projects in remote areas with 100% FIFO workforces may still be acceptable.

Government response to these Reports is expected in early 2016. This may be followed by the introduction of new laws and regulations in regards to FIFO and non-resident workforces.

For further information, please contact Jay Leary, Partner, or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.

Update - Innovative Resources Tenures Framework, Queensland

On 12 October 2015, Herbert Smith Freehills attended the Queensland Department of Natural Resources & Mines workshop on the Innovative Resources Tenures Framework in Brisbane.
The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the Policy Position Paper, which was released in August 2015.  Submissions in response to the Policy Position Paper close on 30 October 2015.

Key information

The five key pieces of information we took away from the session were:

  1. The new tenure framework will decrease the types of tenure available to proponents from 20 to 5, being: 
    • Information Authorities,
    • Exploration Authorities,
    • Development Authorities,
    • Production Authorities, and 
    • Infrastructure Authorities. 

    This is intended to create a less complex system which will be simpler to regulate with respect to overlapping areas.

  2. For exploration authorities, there will be no maximum area size but parties will be required to provide justification for the size of the area applied for.
  3. Default relinquishment will be 50%.  However, there will be potential for reduced or deferred relinquishment based on the performance of the proponent.
  4. Feedback received by the Department indicates that the systems for production authorities and infrastructure authorities work well and there will be minimal changes to how these are regulated.
  5. Companies will be required to review their native title agreements to ensure native title processes are not triggered under the proposed changes.
Next steps

There will be further consultation and opportunities for feedback as the reforms progress through the following stages:

  • a regulatory impact statement due to be released in early 2016,
  • the consultation Bill which will be introduced to Parliament (no timing given), and
  • the Parliamentary Committee process during the passage of the Bill.


The Department indicated that it is hopeful that the transitional arrangements for exploration authorities will be prepared in late 2015, with full implementation of the reforms to be completed by the end of 2017.

Please contact William Oxby, Partner, Brisbane, +61 7 3258 6469 or Cassandra Duffy, Solicitor +61 7 3258 6456 if you require additional information or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.