Guest Post: thefrollickingmole – Mining sexism, etc., a problem so big it takes a whole government effort to create

Not so long ago there were articles about how horrid life was for ladies on mining operations fly in/fly out.

There’s an enormous number of strands here, not limited to ladies being the ‘koalas’ of minesites.

Long swings away from family, a 90+% male workforce and increasing levels of surveillance and control over the workers lives is just shit.

The fairly obvious effects on family life and

The strand Im going to pick on is the one not mentioned once in any of the inquiry or commentary from the wise mongs in the media or government. Yet it’s the single most relevant factor of all.

In the 1st of July 1986 the “problem” was created.

The FBT was introduced on minesites providing “towns” for employees to live in rather than a donga/mess/pub/gym model it has deteriorated to.

I have lived in each variety, minesite provided dongas, 3rd party dongers, drive in/drive out, fly in/fly out, ex-company towns and lastly residential minesite towns.

To its credit the tax has done exactly what it was supposed to, channeled money away from local areas/ councils and towards cities and the federal governments coffers. Instead of a local area getting services and the ancillary support businesses with doctors, schools, supermarkets, roads and a community you have a wealth extraction “pod” of people dumped who are tolerated only so long as they work.

Its allowed a 9-5 home every night operation to instead move to 12 hour days, 24 hr operations, the companies love it as its cheaper and they deal with employee ‘widgets’ not people, and every sign of pathology in the people they are responsible for is an excuse for more control over them. Making people powerless, isolating them from family and subjecting them to levels of coercion and control not normally found outside police/ armed forces.

It has led to a new cohort of fatherless kids (at least for 2 out of 3 weeks) and has had a ruinous effect on apprenticeships within mining.

Its not as though both ‘mobs” in parliament don’t know what they have done, they just don’t give a shit at every level bar the local.

A prime example of this occurs in the mining industry. Given the location of most mining sites, the companies often provide free housing and other so-called benefits to their employees. These are regarded as necessary for a number of reasons. Life in many mining communities, particularly in remote Australia, is not particularly easy. The remoteness of many of these mining locations makes living out in these areas not as comfortable as living in our capital cities.

  These so-called benefits that the mining companies extend to their employees are really only measures to lift the standard of living of employees to something approaching that which people in urban areas take for granted. These benefits were also considered necessary to attract employees to these regions. Yet they are now subject to the fringe benefits tax. This is having a profound effect on the nature of work in these areas as well as on the nature of the traditional mining town.

  In this nation today we have some very traditional mining towns—Mount Isa, Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill—in remote parts of Australia. Those towns grew around the mining operations in those areas. One effect of this fringe benefits tax has been that mining companies now resort to what is known as fly in, fly out. Instead of providing the accommodation and the associated benefits which are subject to the tax, the companies fly the workers in at the beginning of the working period and fly them out when it ends. This transportation of the workers in and out of these mining communities is not subject to a tax. As a result, companies often reject the idea of setting up permanent town sites in preference to the fly in, fly out arrangements.

  Mining employees have always been central to the existence of these communities, but their loss means that these settlements face the very real prospect of decline. In addition, a vibrant, well serviced community is needed to attract not only skilled workers, but other essential people such as doctors and teachers.

  The reality of this situation is that fringe benefits attract these people to remote areas. But a fringe benefits tax attracts no-one anywhere. As a result, once thriving communities face decline.

State government gets all the money spent ‘central” in metro areas. Federal sees inflated wages and tax take.

Companies see lower costs and easier replaceable “widgets”.

So the bullshit inquiry just held heard from companies and agencies in general who would support the status quo, indeed some have used it as an excuse for further surveillance and control..

After defining sexual assault and harassment as a safety risk in 2018, BHP last year committed to $300 million in security upgrades across its sites, including guards, CCTV and lighting.

In short government and companies have maximized their returns while causing community wide pathologies, relationship breakups, dadless kids, mental health issues, surveillance culture and never ending ratcheting ‘compliance”.

The government wants to save a few million on their next ‘inquiry” on the same shit in 10 years time and wants to know whos responsible.

Look in a mirror you first order thinking loons, this is a direct result of changes you made 40 years ago.

First-level thinking is simplistic and superficial, and just about everyone can do it (a bad sign for anything involving an attempt at superiority). All the first-level thinker needs is an opinion about the future, as in “The outlook for the company is favorable, meaning the stock will go up.” Second-level thinking is deep, complex and convoluted.

Get past the ads and this is as close as you will find to the big sites now.

30 thoughts on “Guest Post: thefrollickingmole – Mining sexism, etc., a problem so big it takes a whole government effort to create”

  1. FBT, another gift from Keating.

    Many years ago, as a public servant, I had to draft a response to a ministerial submission from an opposition member. The submission concerned the effect of the FBT on a particular group of the opposition member’s constituents, from which effect he requested relief.

    The opposition member, as either a backbencher or junior minister in the Hawke/Keating government, had voted for the tax, almost certainly without either reading the Bill, or considering the potential effect on his constituents. It was hard to suppress the tendency to sarcasm in the response.


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  2. Good post, TFM.

    An inability to consider second and third order effects is why people are now dying of cancer, etc, in record numbers, due to the Covid response.


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  3. Thanks TFM. One can see the problems with drug abuse by the struggling sole parent that has to try to cope whilst the FIFO worker is away. Terrible state of affairs really. All predictable of course. All about big government and screwing over the regions as you have written. One would think that the Nats would arc up about this but no. Piss weak as usual.


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  4. So how do you fund a town if you have a 3 year mine life?

    I work an 8 on 6 off fifo roster which is pretty standard in remote WA. I live in a camp, have breakfast at 4am, get to office at 4:40 and back in camp at 5:30, shower, dinner, Netflix, asleep at 8, rinse and repeat. Oh and you know it’s Friday as you have fish and chips.


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  5. Woolfesays:
    July 12, 2022 at 9:04 am
    So how do you fund a town if you have a 3 year mine life?

    You wouldnt, but if a place has a 20+ year life then the FBT kills any thought of a ‘town’ stone dead.

    The default used to be residential, drive in/drive out with a handful of remote places fi/Fo.
    Now its default Fi/fo, with all services/ amenities/spending taken back to the city.

    First order thinking says this is great, companies make more profits, government receipts are higher and services can be centralized in Perth/ Capital cities..

    2nd order looks at the effects on the regions, families and individuals.

    And yes, I do realize some families are only together BECAUSE dad is away for a couple of weeks at a time…


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  6. Lots more regulations contribute to this. Back in the day it was common to have a little lease and work it on your time off. Wives and kids and friends joined in. All made up the character of the place and you might just find a nice little nugget or two. Mines Dept make it almost impossible to pursue these days and let’s face it it’s only a little patch of desert. Add red, green and black tape and it’s ensured you’re not going to be on the front page with something shiny. All purposeful, collusion between big business and gummint.


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  7. It is an over-simplification, although the point is well made. The boom-bust cycle of mining towns is well known, and 20 years is not long in terms of a family’s investment in where to live. If the mine closes down, their home is worthless, there are no jobs, yada yada.

    Fringe benefits were being rorted, big time, but the FBT is a very blunt instrument. It should not be beyond the wit of man to devise something which supports community infrastructure without allowing the big end of town to write off their yachts.

    Still, given the very high construction and maintenance costs of anything in remote locations, it may be that it is just not worth it to try to create towns in the middle of nowhere.


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  8. Add to that most of Western Australia mining country is a shihole.

    Large Rio town Paraburdoo, only has junior school, older kids have to be bussed 80 kms to Tom Price where they get a crap education. Lots of people I knew there “ lived” there during swing but had moved family back to Perth and paid for there own flights every week.

    So yeaaaa naaaa. Let the people decide where and how they want to live


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  9. Companies see lower costs and easier replaceable “widgets”.

    There are some companies which would prefer to have a local workforce and are prepared to build or upgrade local towns to accommodate such a workforce instead of running a virtual airline company to shuttle people around the place. It’s the FBT which prevents this from happening.


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  10. If the mine closes down, their home is worthless, there are no jobs, yada yada.

    The mining company owns the properties. You are effectively leasing a property for nothing while you work for them.

    Large Rio town Paraburdoo, only has junior school, older kids have to be bussed 80 kms to Tom Price where they get a crap education.

    Chicken or egg woolfe? Is the school crap because of lack of resources? Is the 80km bus trip to avoid the cost of setting up a HS and teachers accommodation etc.
    Lack of amenity means people go to Perth.
    Perth has the amenities (and usually a better climate) because its sucking the cash from the mining shires.


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  11. So yeaaaa naaaa. Let the people decide where and how they want to live

    Sure. However, the FBT is a disincentive to any other decision than FIFO.


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  12. That’s the funniest clip I have seen in a long while. It must have gone under Youtubes radar because it makes jokes about the privileged and protected classes.


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  13. Petrossays:
    July 12, 2022 at 2:09 pm
    Are the flights subject to FBT?

    No, classified as a “business expense”, rather than an employee benefit.


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  14. Ended up hating living in town. All clubs, schools ect had mid level Wang’s on the committees or there wives.

    Almost destroyed my marriage.
    If I did it again it would be fly in fly out.

    Loved the work though.


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  15. TFM, I absolutely agree.

    You see the same/equivalent throughout rural and regional Australia – all down to Paul Keating, envious of the “George Street farmers”, whose tax-deductible spending on their country properties made the difference that kept their communities buoyant.

    The destruction which the envy of “little men with power” causes is predictable but irresistible.


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  16. Its so annoying to see idiots who caused the problem scratching their heads 40 years on pretending its a mystery as to why problems have arisen.

    Or even worse.
    They have the corporate memory of a goldfish and really have no idea it was something they caused.


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  17. Are the flights subject to FBT?

    No, classified as a “business expense”, rather than an employee benefit.
    Hmmm, expenses incurred in going from home to place of employment and back are not normally tax deductible for the employee. Seems to me free company provided travel for this is a fringe benefit.
    Probably got around by saying employee place of employment is in the big city and the company is moving them around internally as required. Seems thin.


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  18. That’s exactly why I asked the question, Eyrie. If it’s a legitimate business expense then that is tax deductible. This has replaced the taxed fringe benefit that the companies had incurred. Nice advantage for the mining company. Big business gets its way again?


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  19. My experiences and opinions below. However having not been to WA since 1995 and never really working there much, my experience may be different to you sand gropers.

    That WA Govt report was written before it was commissioned. IMO it made a mountain out of a molehill and brought everyone with a grievance out of the woodwork… I have spent years in Queensland and South Australian camps. Some were like Melrose Place, others very much more subdued but still there just discreet and then there were the ones like the Mac Camps who had signs up on not soliciting the staff (I am certain they were referring to the Thai/Phillo cleaners). I rarely saw any outright sexism and when it reared it’s ugly head that person was on the next plane home.

    I see what you are saying and agree totally on the FBT cancer but I’m with Woolfe. I had a young family and did look at Moranbah and Mackay at the time. Without the cost benefit analysis which had Townsville even if I paid for flights as the better alternative, a dive into the community politics was eye opening. I spent my teenage years in Seymour Victoria and have some idea of how incestuous and intrusive small country towns can be. I however found Moranbah toxic, in some cases being worse than some married quarter patches I’d lived in when dad was a soldier in the ’80’s especially when it came to company and position. I chose to remain FIFO.

    Regrettably I found it no different anywhere else in the Central Highlands. In 1950’s a town was probably a better idea due to the tyranny of distance, these days with the advent of technology, na let people live where they want.

    Lastly, LOL Mining Boom, I loved that series. I actually have known idiots like that on site…

    PS: On the flights. If I had an ABN and sub contracted to an agency flights are tax deductable to my ABN. As I have mostly been an employee of consultancies (due to the cost of Professional Indemnity and other required insurances) it isn’t in that case.


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  20. mole

    They have the corporate memory of a goldfish and really have no idea it was something they caused.

    See my comment about the Liars MP, above. He clearly had no recollection (and possibly no actual knowledge) of what he had voted for.


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  21. Rock Doc

    I spent my teenage years in Seymour Victoria and have some idea of how incestuous and intrusive small country towns can be.

    You might even have known the young m0nty-fa? His “formative years” seem to have been there.


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  22. BJ maybe. I prefer anonymity though so aren’t interested in finding out and with the steady throughput of army brats out at Pucka like I was, that is probably safe.


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  23. LOL Mining Boom, I loved that series. I actually have known idiots like that on site…

    That’s the best part of it!
    Every bloke in that cartoon is someone you know. As in, the mannerisms, speech, tone, are all so real.


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  24. That’s the funniest clip I have seen in a long while. It must have gone under Youtubes radar because it makes jokes about the privileged and protected classes.

    The Google drones (meat-based and otherwise) don’t get the humour.

    Everyone in Australia with even a tenuous connection to Industry, does. 🙂


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  25. Top post, ‘Mole.

    Mining Boom is as close to reality as you can get in an animated feature.

    Every character has one or more real life equivalents somewhere in the mining game.

    I even recognised myself in one episode (no, I refuse to divulge which one).

    On a serious note, FIFO is a huge marriage wrecker. It used to be fun and pretty profitable for the younger single blokes, Harley Davidson loved a slew of cashed up young miners coming to town, and the wet mess was a party paradise, but for the married fellows, leaving the wife to handle all the day to day chores, kids wanting to know where Dad was and the brutal uncertainty of having a job one day and none the next takes a huge toll on families.

    Living in camps with a work/life cycle of “get up, go to work, come back to camp, go to bed” is soul destroying.

    In my early mining days, I worked drill rigs in remote locations in a swag, town accomodation with a daily bus to the site, mine site dongas, and even hotel accomodation on a couple of occasions. After a few years of this routine I was close to burnout in my 30’s

    After starting out on my own, I leased an office and yard in Kalgoorlie, picked my own jobs and locations, and made sure I took at least two months a year off. A good mix of profitable work and relaxed leisure time kept me in the game for 20+ years.

    If I was starting out again now, I would avoid FIFO like the plague, especially with the never ending worker restrictions imposed by the major companies under the unarguable “Health and Safety” rules.


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