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Nov 17, 2011

Fly-in, fly-out workers cause political schizophrenia.

Fly in fly out workers have been noticed by state and federal governments and are now something of a cause in the halls of power throughout the nation. In some cases they have been embraced by those politicians who see this phenomenon as a cure for unemployment in cities, while others see them as a scourge who really ought to settle down with their families in whatever mining town they find work in for the duration of the job.

FIFO has been established as the best way for mining companies to get experienced staff and workers into out of the way places where there is insufficient population to conduct operations. Many workers favor it as a way to have a stable home environment while working away, without the need to drag families from place to place as needed. Normally it involves 12 hr shifts for x weeks on, followed by y weeks off.

Senator Barnaby Joyce has noticed some of the complications to the rapid rise in economic activity involved in a mining boom:

The Mackay Daily Mercury reports today that rents in Moranbah have sky-rocketed to up to $3000 per week for a standard three bedroom home.* For the same money you can rent five-bedroom, five bathroom and swimming pool mansions on the Gold Coast.

Moranbah might be at the epicentre but the mining boom is having the same effect all around the country in places like Roma, Karratha and even bigger centres like Mackay.

Meanwhile this government has a $100 million Building Better Regional Cities program which aims “to invest in local infrastructure projects that support an increase in the number of homes for sale and rent that are affordable for working families on ordinary incomes.”** Places like Moranbah, Karratha and Roma do not qualify for funding, however, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Geelong do.

“Minister Burke said that his program was to help fly-in, fly-out workers, maybe he actually meant fly-in, fly-out surfers” said Senator Barnaby Joyce.
Barnaby raises some good points here however he appears to miss others. One of the things that he should be looking at is that with rents as high as reported home owners are looking at a return of $150,000 per year, which sounds like a very good investment. Under those circumstances, given a long term future for mining in the area, it would seem reasonable to assume that landholders in the area would have little trouble to secure financing to build any number of reasonable homes suitable for the rental market.

Such activity should rapidly stabilize the rental market. If this is not happening, perhaps some investigation might be necessary to find out why it is not.

The whole system of government grants from taxpayer funds for regional infrastructure needs to be overhauled. Those funds will always come from the regions where the money is being made, ie Moranbah, Karratha, Roma and so on, and will always flow to places which have the most political pull, such as the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, Geelong, etc. It seems reasonable to assume that these mining regions would be better off were they to have more of their money left there in the first place and fund their own infrastructure out of it.

One method of achieving this has been championed by Barnaby recently. If landholders were allowed to profit from mineral, oil, and gas extraction on their properties, considerable wealth would be retained within the regions much of which would be invested there. A couple of hundred millionaires in Roma or other regional cities would make a big difference.

All the government would have to do is get out of the way and watch the boom occur.


  1. If the Labor government would repeal the fringe benefits tax then you might see mining companies building houses for workers again.

  2. Possibly, but the fact remains that as an experienced worker in the field I prefer to leave the family in one place while I go away for a couple of weeks, then come home for a time. It allows a greater degree of stability.