Black lung response backed
The Queensland Government has moved to accept most of the recommendations made by State Parliament's black lung committee.
The in-principle acceptance includes a call for a new mine safety authority, more surprise inspections of mine sites, and broader coverage for workers under a new coal workers' health scheme.
The Government says it supports the 68 recommendations of the Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis Committee's report 'Black Lung, White Lies' (available here in PDF form), though it will need more consultation before most can be implemented.
The Parliamentary Committee called for an independent Mine Safety and Health Authority to be set up in Mackay.
Other recommendations include more health assessments for all coal workers — including those engaged in so-called ‘low risk’ work — and expanding the definition of coal workers to include train loaders, port crews, and power station workers.
Mines Minister Anthony Lynham has announced the Queensland Government would invest up to $21 million over two years for the establishment of the new regulator, to improve dust monitoring, improve health arrangements, and offer more workers compensation and rehabilitation for workers.
“This will fund a project management office, led by a person independent of existing government agency structures, to lead the further consultation required as detailed in this response,” Dr Lynham said.
“Due to the complexity of some of the recommendations, we believe additional analysis and consultation is required to implement those recommendations.
“The Government will continue thorough consultations on these specific recommendations.”
CFMEU mining division president Steve Smyth wants more detail about where that $21 million will going to be spent.
“What does that mean? Is it going to be spent on ensuring that health screening is world class? Is the money being spent to make sure the regulator is doing its job?” he told the ABC.
“The coal companies need to dip into their pocket as well because at the end of the day they're the coal face literally and they need to be providing safe places to work and they need to make sure we stop the dust and do what's required so we don't put more workers at risk.
“The other question is, is the funding going towards the training and quality of doctors screening miners in the future? Is it being invested into them because it certainly does need to be?”
Queensland has seen 25 confirmed cases of black lung reported to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines since May 2015.