Wheatstone workers to stay on site

wheatWA Premier Colin Barnett’s decision to allow workers at Chevron’s Wheatstone project to stay on site rather than in nearby Onslow has caused cracks in the coalition government, with concerns raised about its economic impact on the North West township.

Under a state agreement signed at the start of the $29 billion project, Chevron was to build a housing development in the town of Onslow to accommodate its fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforce.

Earlier this month Mr Barnett told State Parliament that Chevron came to him “four or five months ago” with a request to change the agreement in favour of housing FIFO workers at the gas plant site, 25km southwest of Onslow, which he had approved.

The new agreement will see Chevron retain a construction camp at the site to sleep its FIFO workforce once the plant is operational.

“[It] is better economics for Chevron in terms of its workforce, but more importantly, it is better for the welfare of its workers,” Mr Barnett said. “The thought of staying in temporary worker accommodation in Onslow and having a 45-minute to one-hour drive before and after shift is hardly good for safety.”

The Premier was slammed by his National party colleagues for the decision, in one of the only public divisions between the ruling Liberal and National parties since they formed government in 2008. WA Nationals leader Terry Redman told The West Australian the Premier had made the wrong decision.

“I think he hasn’t thought this one through. And I think that he seems to be captured by the resource company in this case,” he said.

“I wasn’t consulted on this decision. I’m pretty sure I knew the Premier’s view…he also knew my view. “As Regional Development minister, I’m disappointed that the potential economic impact on the community hasn’t been given the weight it deserves.” North West Central member Vince Catania, a National whose electorate covers Onslow and the Wheatstone project, said the state agreement had been developed to ensure the town would prosper, and breaking the agreement would impact on the local community, shire and businesses.

“I am extremely disappointed at the poor corporate behaviour displayed by Chevron…the Onslow community expected and deserves more,” he said. “I am also very unhappy that the Premier has signed off on these changesto the state agreement.”

Mr Barnett said he knew Mr Catania and the local community wanted the housing development in Onslow, but it was in the interest of workers and safety to stay on site.

“The member for North West Central disagrees. That is fine…I happen to have a different view and the different view prevails,” he said.