The Queensland Government will set up a parliamentary review into the re-emergence of black lung disease in the state.
The potentially life-threatening disease — also known as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis — was thought to have been eliminated in Australia until a case was confirmed in May 2015.
An ABC investigation this week revealed there were four workers compensation claims for the diseasebetween 2007 and 2012.
One of those claims was accepted and another is still pending.
In July, a further 18 cases were detected.
In State Parliament last night, the Opposition moved a motion to set up a commission of inquiry into the issue.
But the ALP voted with the assistance of the two Katter’s Australian Party MPs to instead set up a parliamentary select committee to do the job.
The Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said: “A focussed parliamentary select committee will provide the scrutiny Queenslanders expect of an open and transparent Palaszczuk Government, without distracting from the immediate priority: fixing the issue.”
“They will tell us what occurred in the past, where the problems were and we’ll be able to learn from this inquiry, and we’ll be co-operating fully with this inquiry,” he said.
“But my focus is still driven to fix this problem to stop any further cases of this dreadful condition occurring in our mining community.”
Royal commission needed: Tim Nicholls
The committee will be established within 30 days and have the standard powers of a parliamentary committee to hear evidence, call witnesses and order documents to be provided, and it will report back to the Parliament.
Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls originally put forward a motion to the house calling for a commission of inquiry into coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.
“We know when unions are protesting against the actions of this Government there are seriously underlying concerns that need to be addressed,” he said.
“There seems to be a blame game happening now between the industry and government departments about what happened, why it happened and whose fault it was.
“The best way to get to the bottom of what happened and ensure it doesn’t happen again is through a commission of inquiry — sometimes called a royal commission.
“We owe it to the workers — both the ones who are currently working in the mining industry and the ones who have had a long mining career — to get to the bottom of the issues that have been identified and reported.”
‘They both died because they were coal miners’
Labor backbencher Jo-Ann Miller broke down during debate on the motion.
Ms Miller’s father, grandfathers and great-grandfathers were Ipswich underground coal miners.
She sobbed as she explained how one of her grandfathers and a great-grandfather had died from black lung.
“They both died because they were coal miners and that’s the real price of mining coal,” she said.
“I thought black lung was gone, I really did. I thought it was over.
“Now we know the disease is back, who is responsible?
“What failures have occurred and why?
“There has obviously been maladministration in the department of mines.”
Ms Miller also volunteered to chair the parliamentary select committee and said it did not come up with answers she would personally call for a royal commission.