Wheatstone new year rule anger
Workers on one of Australia’s biggest projects are threatening to take their employers to court to fight for their right to party in Onslow on New Year’s Eve.
Workers on the $45 billion Wheatstone project are livid 130 of the 200 of them who applied to leave site and celebrate New Year’s Eve in nearby Onslow have been refused by a range of employers, including Downer and Bechtel.
Head contractor Chevron capped the numbers in consultation with local police and other stakeholders.
Only 300 workers would be allowed in town before 9.30pm and 70 allowed to stay overnight.
The Electrical Trades Union said it would formally oppose the decision.
ETU State secretary Les McLaughlan said the 200 workers, who are not rostered to work on January 1, were initially told anyone who managed to secure accommodation in Onslow would be granted approval to go.
Mr McLaughlan said all 200 workers got hotel rooms but 130 were denied the right to go to Onslow for the night.
He accused the employers of undermining morale, claiming it was a “slap in the face”.
“The workers are being treated like they are prisoners up there,” he said. “People want to go to a pub, or go to the beach. They are grown adults who want to spend new year away from an industrial worksite.”
Downer spokesman Michael Sharp denied that employees were told they would get approval to leave site if they managed to secure accommodation.
Officer-in-charge at Onslow police station Sgt Kevin Jones said the longstanding cap on visitors from Wheatstone was partly for safety reasons.
There would be only four police officers on duty on New Year’s Eve, and the nearest police station was 300km away.
“The mentality is that they come in and they drink, and drink, and drink, and drink,” he said.
The number of antisocial incidents had gone down since the number of Wheatstone visitors was capped and the limit would not change for New Year’s Eve, Sgt Jones said.
The cap was also to ensure the facilities could be enjoyed by locals, with Onslow hotels capable of hosting fewer than 400 of the town’s 800 residents.
“The facilities in town belong to the people who live here,” Sgt Jones said.
But not all the locals are happy about the decision. Post office and general store duty manager Julie Carroll said the extra tourist dollars would be welcome.
“I would like to see them come into town and spend,” she said. “You’d be crazy as a business if you didn’t think that. Christmas is very quiet so any extra business would be welcome.”
Chevron will host an on-site concert, including several well-known Australian bands, for workers who could not leave.