Mines safety and health commissioner Kate du Preez.
Mines safety and health commissioner Kate du Preez.

State's top mines safety officer is just part-time

DESPITE the re-emergence of black lung disease, Queensland's top mines safety officer is only a part-time role and has just one employee, a parliamentary committee has heard. 

The committee looking into the re-emergence of black lung heard Mines Safety and Health Commissioner Kate du Preez is the first commissioner to not be a staff member of the Department of Natural Resources and Mines - but her job and thus her independence is only at the "good grace" of the department or minister.

Ms du Preez told the committee she is only paid for a part-time role but is currently working almost every day as commissioner. She said the position is listed as a half-time role.

She said she had just one full-time officer working for her and has occasional access to a personal assistant.

Ms du Preez confirmed her office had no lawyers directly employed to provide independent advice on potential prosecutions. 

Committee chair Jo-Ann Miller was stunned when she heard how small the office was. 

"You are kidding," she said.

"Why, with all of the commissioners that we have throughout Queensland - we have a commissioner for police, a commissioner for corrective services, we have a commissioner for fire services, and several other commissioners - why is this particular position only point five?"

Ms Miller said that would mean the office was currently operating on a budget of less than $400,000 annually. 

Before Ms du Preez was appointed to the role earlier this year, mines safety and health commissioners also worked as DNRM directors. She said this made her the first "independent" commissioner. 

But Ms Miller questioned whether she was truly independent from the department as her travel requests are made to the deputy director-general, her office used departmental legal services and her office has been based in the same building as the department. 

Committee deputy chair Lawrence Springborg said the commissioner's role was not statutorily assured of its independence.

"You hold the role as commissioner but there is no statutory role as commissioner. It's basically at the good grace of the director general or the minister of the day," he said.