Why Jo-Ann Miller broke down about black lung

BUNDAMBA MP Jo-Ann Miller made a heartfelt plea for justice in the coal industry in Queensland Parliament on Thursday night.

After the LNP attempted to set up a commission of inquiry into the re-emergence of black lung the government amended the motion to instead hold a parliamentary inquiry.

Ms Miller, who has publicly called for a royal commission, backed the government and asked to chair the parliamentary inquiry.


Read her full speech below:

My father, my grandfathers and my great-grandfathers were all Ipswich underground coalminers.

My great-grandfather Kitching died in the extended colliery at Raceview in a coalmining accident.

My grandfather, Hugh Kitching, worked at the same colliery as his father. The other miners brought my grandfather out on top and out of the way as an act of kindness so that he would not see his own father, who was dead on a stretcher, brought to the surface.

My grandfather, James Daniel Pringle, died in 1968. When the doctors performed an autopsy, they found that he had black lung.

I ask members to imagine it. His lungs were totally black.

My grandfather-yes, my grandfather-died of black lung and that is why this matter is most important to me. It is so close to my heart because it is family.

It is about coalminers who are family. It is about our great coal families right throughout Queensland-in Ipswich, the Bowen Basin, Mackay, Rockhampton and Emerald-and it is about workplace health and safety, which is something that I have grown up with since the day I was born because my family history is about death and dying in coal mines.

My father, my grandfathers and my great grandfathers went to work, but they did not go to work to die.

My grandfather did not go to work to die of black lung. As I said, they both died because they were coalminers. That is the real price of mining coal.

I thought black lung was gone. I really did. I thought it was over. I thought black lung, or pneumoconiosis, was eradicated in Queensland and Australia and so did the coalminers and their families, so did the CFMEU and so did successive governments.

Now we know that the disease is back. Who is responsible? What failures have occurred and why? There obviously has been maladministration in the Department of Mines.

Let us talk about black lung. It is a terrible, terrible disease. The miners tell me that it is like having a ton of bricks on their chest every day. They cannot breathe properly. They are walking around with oxygen bottles. It is a terrible, terrible way to die. Patients have symptoms of shortness of breath and chronic cough.

They have more exposure to coal than anyone knows. They are down the mines, they breath it in and they cannot get the coal out so the coal stays in their lungs and it forms fibrosis. It is just dreadful.

There has been a cover-up way back to the Bjelke-Petersen government. There has been a systemic failure, there is no doubt about that, and we need to get to the bottom of it.

Earlier this week the black lung victims group wrote to the Premier of Queensland. I table that for the parliament.
I want a royal commission, and I still do, but I also understand that we can get a parliamentary committee up and running quickly. Because of that and my involvement in the industry I really want to get to the bottom of this.

So, colleagues, I offer my services as the chair of this committee because I have worked in the mining industry, I am trusted by the industry, I am trusted by coalminers and I am trusted by their families.

If this inquiry does not work I will come back in here and I will move for a royal commission myself.


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