Legislative Council

QUESTION: Health of gas industry workers

September 4th, 2018

On the 4th of September, Mark asked the Minister for Health and Wellbeing a question about the health of workers in the gas industry.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Yesterday, the state government gave the final approval for a trial of underground coal gasification at Leigh Creek. This approval came despite overwhelming opposition from conservation groups, the Adnyamathanha traditional owners and concerns from locals about health impacts.

Back in 2015, Queensland government environmental inspectors reported that they had to receive medical attention while inspecting a trial underground coal gasification plant at Chinchilla in the Darling Downs. One government inspector was hospitalised. In evidence tendered to a Queensland court during the prosecution of the company Linc Energy for environmental harm, former workers described how working in the gas field affected their health. One worker, Timothy Ford, described how the gas burnt his eyes and nose and he would need to leave the plant after work to get fresh air because it made him feel sick.

'We were told to drink milk in the mornings and at the start of shift. We were also told to eat yoghurt,' he said. 'The purpose of this was to line our guts so the acid wouldn't burn us. We were not allowed to drink the tank water and were given bottled water.' Mr Ford said that he always felt lethargic, suffered infections and had shortness of breath. He said, 'During my time at the Linc site, would be the sickest I have been,' and, 'It is my belief that workplace was causing my sickness.'

My question of the minister is: what assurance can he give to government workers and to Leigh Creek energy workers that their health will not be harmed by underground coal gasification, which I remind the minister has been banned in Queensland because of the harm it causes to health and the environment?

ANSWER - The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment): I thank the honourable member for his question. As I understand the honourable member's question, it raises issues in relation to occupational health and safety, which I understand is the responsibility of the Deputy Premier rather than myself. I will certainly take those questions on notice and seek a response for the honourable member.

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