Copious back-patting doesn’t help families of fallen miners

September 14, 2020 JOHN NINNESS

OPINION The recent resignation of Dr Anthony Lynham, Queensland’s Mine Safety Minister, has seen a raft of applause for Lynham’s great works come from the likes of Queensland’s Resources Council Chief Ian Macfarlane and the CFMMEU Mining Chief Stephen Smyth. We’ve heard statements from what a great job he did to the latest…that resulted in me gagging… and then spraying my (uh hum) COVID-19 free coffee across the table in defiance of social distancing requirements.

Stephen Smyth, incidentally I hear is one of the snipers that took down Dr Lynham, has come out slapping Lynham’s back as a great Labor hero and then leading with a statement “But Dr Lynham’s leadership has made a real difference and we thank him for making sure mineworkers’ voices have been heard – including through the wide-ranging Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry which he established.”

I get it that the guy has served five years in politics at times often working with toxic colleagues and even more toxic public servants. It’s a tough gig and I am sure that Lynham could have pocketed much more coin had he continued in his chosen profession as a maxillofacial surgeon.

Parliament was clearly a calling for Lynham following his 12 years of campaigning against violence in the community. The man, as I see him at a distance, is clearly of intellect and has made a great sacrifice for the community in his role with the Palaszuck Government but unfortunately, he’s overseen massive Government failings in the management of mine safety that have resulted in deaths and disasters almost unimaginable in this century.

Anthony Lynham
Hon Dr Anthony Lynham, Twitter

The decision of Annastacia Palachook (oops Palaszczuk…btw I still have to Google it to spell it right) to place Lynham in charge of a mining portfolio (incorporating mine safety) is as bewildering as the galleries in an old coal pit. I just can’t fathom the rationale….here’s a well educated inner-city boy who spent a bit of time in the army and you pop him front and centre into the cut and thrust of one of the most powerful industries in Australia. Not to mention parachuting him into the middle of some long term public servants who view a new minister as an opportunity for their past sins (and massive cockups) to be absolved and to be reborn a clean and wholesome soul.

Poor bloody Lynham.

I have often asked an old labor mate of mine how the ALP chooses Ministers. I asked one time “wouldn’t you find someone who had come through the ranks of coal mining, who knew the industry well? You know the likes…blokes like Jimmy Pearce? To which he replied “Mate, you certainly don’t want anyone who knows anything about mining in that job. It’ll cause too many waves for Government. It would turn into a massive shit fight for the government of the day.”

While we may jest about Lynham’s appointment and his term in office, there remains a part of the mining community who have been indirectly affected by his, and the current Queensland Government’s failure to adequately manage and regulate mining safety.

In the midst of the copious back-patting, they are the forgotten ones who bear the scars of a government and industry whom Lynham oversaw. They are the people that Lynham refused to meet following the death of their loved ones despite their repeated pleas to be heard. They are the ones that wait and wait and wait for justice to be served in relation to the loss of their grandfather, dad, brother or son. They are the ones who bear the brunt of Government and industry failings that are often caught in the midst of a game of political football, legal arguments and blame.

Yes, we can all say some great things about what the good Dr Lynham did and what he achieved but there’s a dark side of Lynham’s legacy that must never be forgotten.

You might like to read Finding the bottom line for mine safety in Queensland

This week the QRC’s Ian MacFarlane released a statement stating “On behalf of the 372,000 Queenslanders working in or because of the resources industry across the State, I want to thank Dr Anthony Lynham for his service as Minister over the last five years….. For me personally, Anthony is a trusted friend and a man of integrity and intelligence. Anthony leaves very big shoes that the next Government will need to consider carefully when filling.”

Let me say….on behalf of the 4001 odd or so miners who ended up with disabling injuries and could not return to work and eleven mineworkers who died since 2014/2015 and the many others who may be affected by the latency of chronic disease…Anthony Lynham has left a Labor legacy that should never be forgotten.

Let’s hope that whichever party secures Government, we will never see an ongoing litany of disasters that we have witnessed over these past years.

There’s a lesson for Queensland’s mining industry from the good Dr Lynham’s mine safety reign…let’s hope that future governments can learn well and bring about real change.

Read more Mining Safety News

Notes:

Conservative estimates based on https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/186688/wcr-stat-report-2018-19.pdf based on approximately 4.3% of miners not returning to work following submission of a workers compensation claim. Actual numbers are likely to be much higher.

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