Monday, March 12, 2012

369 Better to have people living in mining towns than Flying In and Out

Better to have people living in mining towns than Flying In and Out

In the late 1970s, when living in rural Tasmania, I came across farmers converting good houses into barns.

The cause was a tax law which said that if a farmer had more than one house - which he did if he bought a neighbouring block - he had to pay more tax.

The bureaucrats and politicians who brought the law in probably had no idea of its side-effects.

Similarly, the Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT), enacted in 1986, had a disastrous side-effect on remote towns in Outback Australia.

It deemed cheap rent, provided to families by companies in such towns, a tax dodge and imposed FBT on it.

As a result, companies ceased moving families to these remote towns, and shifted to a Fly-In, Fly-Out system.

Australia, a desert continent and largely an empty continent, became a lot lonelier because bureaucrats & politicians had no idea of the consequences of the laws they drafted.

Adminal Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently stated that the US national debt is a security issue - the single biggest threat to America's national security:

Surely, then, the emptying of the Australian continent by inept bureaucrats and politicians is also a security issue.

(1) Better to have people living in mining towns than Flying In and Out
(2) Port Hedland wants Fly-in, Fly-out rethink
(3) Fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) killed remote towns - a byproduct of Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT)
(4) Cheap rent for Company-provided houses in mining towns was seen as a 'Fringe Benefit'
(5) Wives find FIFO a "nightmare" - "loneliness", "depression"

(1) Better to have people living in mining towns than Flying In and Out


By Cole Latimer on 27 August 2010

A Port Hedland deputy mayor is urging Queensland’s Bowen Basin to fight against fly in fly out work arrangements.

Councillor Arnold Carter has said the West Australian economy has been severely damaged since the practice of FIFO became more common place.

“Do everything in your possible capacity and capability to discourage (FIFO), instead encourage the mining companies to build houses, to have their families there,” Carter said.

Speaking to Australian Mining, he said that he has personally seen the tremendous effect that FIFO has had on local community.

"While the mining companies have been great in supporting the local communities, we'd much rather have more people living in the towns than flying in and out."

BMA has seen a serious backlash from Queensland mining communities following its appeal to the State Government to obtain a 100% FIFO workforce for its Caval Ridge coal mine near Moranbah, as well as its Daunia coal mine.

The miner had previously agreed to source 30% of the workforce from local areas.


Andy | 1 September 2010 at 12:35

Your readers are obviously unaware of the cause of FIFO - it was the stupid fringe benefits tax, making it almost impossible for companies and employees alike to carry the burden. Guess who created it? Our dear old mates Hawke and Keating. Dom.

(2) Port Hedland wants Fly-in, Fly-out rethink

Posted January 14, 2009 14:18:00

MAP: Port Hedland 6721

The Town of Port Hedland is hoping BHP Billiton will abandon plans to increase its fly-in, fly-out work force in the Pilbara.

The Member for the Pilbara, Tom Stephens, has criticised the mining company over its plans to increase its work force by 20 per cent over the next three years without building new houses in Port Hedland and Newman.

He has also urged the State Government to block the plan.

Port Hedland's deputy Mayor, Arnold Carter, says BHP's plan will have a detrimental effect on development in regional centres.

"Fly-in, fly-out doesn't achieve anything. We'd certainly be expressing our concerns that if this was going to be the attitude and the policy they were going to adopt, we would certainly have discussions ... [with] them to try and get them to alter this outlook," he said.

(3) Fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) killed remote towns - a byproduct of Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT)

Evie 12.40am, good question. Hawke-Keating introduced the fringe benefits tax in 1986 which hit the mining companies hard as they were supplying infrastructure and services to all their mining sites (ie: building and running the towns where the employees lived), which all came under the the FBT umbrella. Also, the mining industry was only very modestly profitable during the Hawke-Keating years, shareholder returns in the region of 2-3% average over the industry. Many of the big projects now operating so profitably were still in exploration or development stage, requiring immense investment with only future projected returns, not actual. Mineral prices were low and stagnant. The mining boom we have been in really only began in the mid-90’s and the really enormous profits have only been of quite recent origin, in a good part due to huge demand from China and unusually high prices.

Sun 13 Jun 10 (10:41am)

Evie, and to give you an idea of just how hard FBT hit the mining companies, fly-in, fly-out became the cheaper option, to the detriment of the towns there, especially in WA’s north-west where there is little reason to live up there except if you are involved in the industry. Newman and Paraburdoo were both built and run by mining companies. The companies provide villages and services for the FIFO workers while they are rostered on, they just don’t live there with their families, so the same level of services isn’t required. In Qld the coalmining areas often have established regional towns in reasonable proximity, and those towns are absolutely booming and bursting at the seams because of the mining activities there.

(4) Cheap rent for Company-provided houses in mining towns was seen as a 'Fringe Benefit'


Wasn't FIFO a 'by-product' of Keating's "Fringe Benefits Tax"?

I seem to recall that the cheaper rents offerred by the companies for on site houses for families, was seen as a 'Fringe Benefit' - i.e. some form of income over and above...and was then to be taxed accordingly....

Sort of negated the reason for going there - to a remote location for a time -say two years or so - to work hard and save for the home in Perth, or wherever.

So was born the FIFO idea. You go 'up there', work for the two weeks or so, live in a donga, and come home to the family - no 'Fringe Benefit' taxes.

Prior to the taxes, 'Mum, Dad, and the Kids(?) would all go to live in the 'towns' established by the larger mines - 'Dad' worked at the mine, 'Mum' worked in the town or at the Mine's admin. and the kids went to the local school which the mine was obliged to establish.

Or, have I mixed that up in my 'old age'...??

(5) Wives find FIFO a "nightmare" - "loneliness", "depression"

From: Moderator 05/06/2002 12:41:50

Subject: Fly In Fly Out post id: 300

New research has shown fly-in, fly-out practices are causing higher levels of stress for the families of the employees.

A study by Edith Cowan University has found communication and household roles are significantly disrupted among families who endure long periods without a husband or father.

As well regional towns are affected when the workforce is flown in rather than residential - is it desirable to continue this practice?

Does your partner fly out to work? Do you? Are you in a town where much of the workforce is flown in? How does fly in fly out affect you?

We'd love to hear your experiences in this issues forum.

From: Robyn 06/06/2002 13:04:19

Subject: re: Fly In Fly Out post id: 311

My husband works fly in fly out on a 15:13 day roster. Our children have left the nest which leaves only me and the dog....I got him for company when my husband started this type of work as the loneliness was terrible. He started about the same time the kids left I had "empty nest" syndrome big time. It took both of us a long time to adjust but now find the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

It was really important for us to discuss just how it affected each of us so we could support each other properly. I work casual relief as a child health nurse and we are able to make sure we make the most of the time we have together when he is home. We do a lot of daytime stuff....movies, picnics, drives, lunches, walks on the beach etc and find it's wonderful to be doing these things while most other people are working.

My work as a child health nurse brings me in contact with lots of young families trying to cope with this situation and I have to say I would never try to do it. I believe children need their dad's around ALL the time and the partner needs the support as well......otherwise she is a single parent most of the time, shouldering all the domestic responsibilities as well as the HUGE responsibility of childrearing alone.

I have also observed a percentage of these "work away dads" who enjoy the "escapism" if I can use that term, of getting away from all domestic responsibility and sadly watch their "couldn't care less" attitude as their excited little ones greet them at the airport. Sometimes they don't even get a hug or any acknowledgement other than a gruff "get in the car when your told" and the wife/partner gets a dutiful peck on the cheek without any sign of feeling.

To sum up I feel it's the way you use the time you have together that makes all the difference and if I didn't have e-mail to keep contact it would be awful.

From: michael 06/06/2002 15:13:50

Subject: re: Fly In Fly Out post id: 313

Two young families in my lot experienced fly in fly out. One lot came to grief when the wife decided she preferred the money but not the old man. Second lot decided when the wife could not cope with teenage kids alone that it was better for Dad to earn less and be home on a permanent basis. I think he misses the mateship on a mine site but he is doing the right thing.

From: Sue 06/06/2002 18:59:33

Subject: re: Fly In Fly Out post id: 314

This is incredibly hard for me to write but I do feel that this may be my chance to at least make other families contemplating moving away from the country to the city a bit of an idea of what things can be like for some people once they change over to fly-in fly-out.

A brief background of our situation. My husband and I made the choice to go fly-in fly-out after living in the Pilbara. Our thoughts where that our son who was just starting year 9 would get a better education in Perth, and we really did not want to split the family by sending him to a boarding school. At the time (14 months ago) I had just started a uni. course via distance education and had thought that his being away would not be a problem because I had so much work to do on the course. Anyway, to cut a long story short what seemed like a good idea has turned into an absolute nightmare. If you have family and friends to support you then you stand a chance but in my case I have tried to make friends but it hasnt been easy and now I often go for two weeks without seeing another person. If my son was younger I could go to the school and maybe make some friends there but teenagers dont want their mums hanging around and as a 44 year old I am too young (ha ha) to join an over 55 group doing something. I have tried to work but found that even more stressful as I get even less chance to see my husband when he comes down.

I really hate the idea of taking medication but things had sunk so deeply that I had no other choice. Depression has become my worst enemy and I quite often dont know how I face another day. One psycologist told us that my husband should "give up work", but it isnt that easy because there is no work for him here in Perth. I dont want my husband to be unemployed and I dont know how we would survive for 12 months without any income if he did resign. (I plucked up the courage to ask the Social Security people about unemployment and they told me that if he quits then he has to wait 12 months before becoming eligible). I feel absolutely trapped and wish that there had been some sort of councilling about this type of employment before it was offered to us. I know that I am not alone in this type of a situation, a workmate of my husbands wife has tried suicide twice since they made the shift. So I live from day to day in the hope that we may get a transfer back to a place where we can all be together.

Thanks for the chance to have my gripe, who knows maybe someone from the BIG COMPANIES involved will read this and help us wives get some sort of a support group going. ...

From: SueP ® 24/12/2002 10:15:19

Subject: re: Fly In Fly Out post id: 1966

Christmas Eve and for most of the year I had been trying to resign myself to the fact that my husband was to have been roostered on at work and I we would be spending a lonely Christmas apart. Sounds a bit dismal and I had been trying for months to put a more positive spin on it but deep down I knew that on the day I would find it difficult.

Well we dont have to be apart now, a few months ago an opportunity came up for my husband to transfer to a site which would allow us to all be together again. It was a very difficult discision to make since it meant selling our lovely home, the one that we had intended to retire in, the on that we had put our heart and soul into. But, as my husband says, it is just a house and being together as a family is to me the most important thing. So, we have purchased a new home in a mining town and are now in the process of cutting the ties down south by selling our home there.

We are looking forward to the new year and a more settled future. It will probably take a while recover from the events of the past 21 months but I can now say that I better understand mental illness and depression and what drives people to attempt suicide. In the future maybe I will be able to help someone else.
Thanks for letting me ramble on here. Thanks ABC for being there, often my only contact with the outside world was listening to the morning and afternoon shows. They helped me keep in touch with reality and sometimes even managed to make me laugh again.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, health and peace to all.

Sue - Karratha WA.

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