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STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS
17/06/2010
Regional skills relocation

CHAIR (Ms Jackson) —Good morning. This is the third public hearing for the committee’s inquiry into regional skills relocation. I welcome representatives of the Minerals Council of Australia to today’s hearing. Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. These proceedings are being broadcast on the internet. We have received your very detailed submission, and I thank you very much for that. I wonder if you would like to make an opening statement before I turn to committee members for questions.

Mr Fraser —Yes, I would, thank you. A few things have changed since then. Thank you for the invitation; we are very pleased to make some initial comments. Firstly, we acknowledge that not everyone wants to work in the minerals sector, or live in or commute to regional and remote Australia. We recognise that attracting people to relocate to remote and regional Australia is a complex issue. Many workers are not motivated by higher wages and financial incentives alone to relocate and transfer, either temporarily or permanently, to another industry sector or geographic area. Our understanding of the issues associated with relocation is informed by experiences with our ‘Now Hiring’ campaigns—we reported one in our submission and a more recent one was the 2009 ‘Now Hiring’ campaign, which we conducted in western Sydney, which at the time had a very high proportion of under-utilised tradespeople. The three-month campaign which cost several hundred thousands of dollars and targeted skilled tradespeople resulted in only one firm expression of interest and no job offers. Many people looked but nothing came of it. Prior to 2 May the minerals industry was once again facing the prospect of a shortage of skilled labour. The ABS February statistics showed that the industry directly employed at that time 158,000 people, which is a rebound to almost the number that we peaked at in November 2008. Back in 2009, our projections indicated that an additional 86,000 people would be required over the next 10 years, including 31,000 skilled tradespeople, 30,000 skilled operators and 9,000 mining professionals. However the impost of the resources super profit tax places these projections into some doubt.

In the national context these numbers are not large numbers and there is likely to be enough tradespeople and entry-level employees able to be trained as operators and drivers available in the national workforce. However, the difficulty that we face is that many of them lack the required levels of experience and specific skills and they are just not where the jobs are in remote and regional Australia. Critically, there are also insufficient professionals being trained at our universities with the qualifications needed by the minerals industry. We also recognise that we are competing for skilled labour with other sectors such as agriculture and local government in remote and regional Australia. Our solution in this area is to work cooperatively with other industry sectors. For example, we have an MOU with the National Farmers Federation and are currently developing a joint entry-level training program to enable graduands from the program to work in either sector and to transition between the two sectors as the economic cycles and their personal circumstances change.

We consider that regional skills relocation in the form of attraction of skilled workers to remote and regional Australia is one of a number of responses required to provide a holistic solution to meeting the skilled labour needs of the minerals industry. We also concede that fly-in fly-out will continue to be a normal and appropriate response to local skilled labour needs, sitting alongside strategies to grow the pool of local skilled labour. In reality, many local populations are not large enough and currently they do not have the skills necessary to meet the needs of our industry. Also, FIFO brings benefits to regional communities with limited employment opportunities, such as Cowra and Cairns, that supply the FIFO workers. FIFO allows people to maintain their important community relationships in their home communities and provide much needed economic boost to those communities.

Temporary skilled migration is also a valid strategic response to skilled labour shortages in remote and regional Australia. The MCA is closely involved in the work of the National Resources Sector Employment Task Force, which is chaired by the parliamentary secretary for Western and Northern Australia, Gary Gray, and is addressing the skilled labour needs of the resources sector. The task force is due to report to the government on 30 June. This activity offers great potential, provided it effectively assesses the labour needs in the current climate and is demand driven by enterprises and not by the service providers.

In summary, to address this issue a holistic approach is required, and we would welcome the opportunity to explore with the committee the issues, such as workforce planning to identify what occupations are needed and where, growing the pool of locally available skilled labour—including initiatives to attract people to the minerals sector—and addressing the recruitment issues related to how our industry employs people, which is a very important area that often gets missed. In conclusion, there is no simple or single solution in a regional skills relocation program and we see the need for a suite of strategies presented as a holistic solution.

CHAIR —Thank you very much for that, Chris. We appreciate your submission. We are very conscious of the work being undertaken by the parliamentary secretary, Gary Gray, and the task force. It is certainly not our intention to reinvent the wheel or in any way duplicate that, and we will all be relying on that for the major recommendations to government about issues in your sector. We are also conscious of the work being done by the minister for immigration with respect to skills related issues, where again we do not want to reinvent the wheel.

We have been looking at other policy initiatives that might be suggested to assist in the relocation of labour, particularly unemployed people, to areas where there are skills shortages. One thing I raise—and I am hoping that you will tell me that things have improved greatly—is that on the basis of some of the evidence we have seen and discussions we have had there seems to be limited workforce development and planning by companies in the sector. Certainly that has been the case, but maybe that has changed more recently.

Mr Fraser —It is a very, very patchy. There are some companies who are doing it very well, others who are not doing it very well and others who are doing it but seeing it as a commercial-in-confidence activity that we would never see, if you know what I mean.

CHAIR —They are identifying what they need, but they do not share it with anyone.

Mr Fraser —Often there are workforce development plans associated with their plans for mergers and acquisitions. They are very commercially sensitive issues, so we have to respect that side of the workforce development planning activity. Des Caulfield over here is the CEO of SkillsDMC, which is the industry skills council for our sector. They have been very successful in gaining some of the enterprise productivity training places, and they are linking those training places to workforce development plans. They have developed some excellent workforce development tools that the industry is now starting to use as a matter of course. Those that are starting to use them are starting to feel very comfortable with them, and we are very supportive of the need to build that workforce development planning information from the enterprise level up.

We recognise there is a need to get the national context and the broad figures, and Gary Gray’s task force is working in that space. But we also need to be working at that enterprise level, and that is where the work that SkillsDMC has done is very important in recognising that. There is also some excellent work being done in Western Australia by the new department head there which is going to be very important to us all across the nation.

CHAIR —Thank you. I am pleased to hear that something is improving and that Western Australia got a bouquet. To that extent, as a Western Australian and someone who has spent some time in our north-west, in my perception there has been a significant change in the way in which resource companies establish their businesses or projects. When I first lived in Dampier it was a company town. It provided all the housing and all the rest. If you went to Mr Haase’s electorate now you would have a very different experience of what the normal arrangements are. I raise that because I noticed in all of your key recommendations there are things that government needs to do. We need to do more on what I think you refer to as ‘soft’ infrastructure or community infrastructure—child care, making jobs more attractive for partners, and women in the industry. Do you see a role or responsibility for the resource sector in that as well?

Mr Fraser —Absolutely, and it is already happening. Our industry takes its social licence very seriously and it invests an enormous amount of money into those softer infrastructure areas—often instead of governments.

CHAIR —Can you give me a specific example? We have heard various local regions talk about donations and grants that have sometimes been made to community sector organisations that are supportive. For example, some people in Queensland talked about grants that have been received to help with non-English-speaking family members of skilled workers who are being brought in on 457 visas, but not necessarily assistance with—

Mr Fraser —Preschools or schools?

CHAIR —paid workers or—

Mr Fraser —With infrastructure. There are an enormous number of examples of companies providing preschools and community centres and those sorts of things.

CHAIR —Is that in a planned way as part of the recruitment strategy?

Mr Fraser —No.

CHAIR —Or is it more a member of the community wanting to be seen to make some sort of contribution?

Mr Fraser —Yes, it is a community social responsibility activity. I cannot give you a figure on the amount. Some companies report those sorts of numbers in their annual reports; others do not. We believe the number is quite large. Without that support a lot of those communities would really struggle because the governments—that is, the state governments—are not backing in with what we on the eastern side of the country take for granted.

CHAIR —You are talking about basic health, community—

Mr Fraser —Basic community services. We are not talking about ports and roads or those sorts of things.

CHAIR —They are pretty important.

Mr Fraser —Yes, but you were discussing what we would call ‘soft’ infrastructure. There are programs that we could cite of companies going in and working with Indigenous communities on establishing enterprises and training people for jobs in the community itself.

Dr Tuckwell —Can I just add another comment to what Chris had to say. This is pretty important for us. I refer to the opening comment that Chris made: not everybody wants to work in remote areas or in the mining industry. However, if you provide sound social and soft infrastructure in these communities you are going to influence more people in a positive way to at least consider the employment opportunities that may exist in remote areas.

CHAIR —And we have heard from some, too, about issues, like affordable housing, which are critical in places like Karratha.

Dr Tuckwell —Karratha and Newman and places like that, yes.

CHAIR —Barry, do you have some questions?

Mr HAASE —About a day’s worth!

CHAIR —You can’t go for a day—I’ll be ruthless!

Mr HAASE —I understand that, so I will be considerate of time. With regard to the provision of soft infrastructure within communities, I know that the companies do make a very, very large contribution. I would make the comment that it was often for the benefit of their employees and the genuine creation of infrastructure to improve ambience, standard of living et cetera for the community, not just to have the public see them as making that contribution. That is a very different concept. Where do you see the balance these days in a true fly-in fly-out situation? I will refer to Cloudbreak as an example. Cloudbreak is purely fly-in fly-out. There is no normal community or town infrastructure there; you do not have to worry about schools, hospitals, police stations et cetera. That was the style. The whole Pilbara region was developed with that creation by state government agreement. There are very different circumstances existing in Queensland, where mines are located close to existing towns and infrastructure has been developed.

More and more in the west you will see the normalisation of towns and the handing over of facilities, and now a community and a local government with a responsibility for providing infrastructure. So whereas you would have done it all before because of the normalisation process and the creation of population—which I personally am very concerned with because it increases numbers and reduces area—where do you see the mix going in the future? You made the point that not everyone wants to be a miner, but the West Australian government, you would be aware, is making a huge push into the Pilbara with the Pilbara cities project. I just wonder if you have any comment to make about what we see in the future. Do we see a diminishing contribution by mining companies or an increasing one? Should government be on notice to find more infrastructure or can we anticipate the past being the general rule of thumb for the future? It is a big question but it has to do with this early May announcement which puts the whole future creation process in mine areas in doubt, in my view.

CHAIR —Not so much in doubt; isn’t it a question of whatever the outcome is will have an impact on what happens.

Mr HAASE —The process, yes.

CHAIR —Ipso facto, that is what happens.

Mr HAASE —We need to prepare ourselves for the future because we do not know what it is going to look like.

Mr Fraser —I will answer that in many ways. We do not have a crystal ball, and I think you were aware of that before you asked the question.

Mr HAASE —Somebody has smashed the crystal ball.

Mr Fraser —It is a very difficult question. It is a big issue. I can say that the industry is spending an immense amount of money each year on infrastructure, mostly hard infrastructure for new projects. It is multiples of the amount of money that is proposed in the Western Australian and Queensland funds that the Prime Minister announced the other day—and they are welcome and important, and they will help.

CHAIR —But you do not have hard figures on that?

Mr Fraser —Some figures are up to something like $50 billion last year.

CHAIR —But we do know on what, and not in a planned way, so it is infrastructure in some areas.

Mr Fraser —It is infrastructure in some areas, yes. The companies will continue to spend money on the project infrastructure if the projects get to the development stage. There is no doubt about that. Will the companies continue to spend that amount of money in the communities? The words that are used by our companies are that they see themselves as surrogates for government in many instances. They dislike that position, and they are keen to encourage governments to, as you call it, ‘normalise’ arrangements. So I think we will see a lot of that. But we will not see the companies pulling away from those corporate social responsibilities because it is so important for these companies to earn and maintain the social licence to operate in these local communities. It is the local communities that give them that social licence to operate. It is not us here in Canberra or in Perth; it is those local communities. So there will be a continuing focus on maintaining that social licence to operate. And that will be manifest in many, many ways.

Mr HAASE —One more question, on a different subject: we all know that there are not enough mining graduates—engineers, geologists, et cetera. Is the Minerals Council involved in promoting, in any direct and meaningful way, at primary or secondary school level, the encouragement of such professions?

Mr Fraser —Kevin will talk about the work with universities, and about the fact that we just do not yet have enough kids doing maths and science to qualify to go into those sorts of science and engineering programs that are so desperately needed.

CHAIR —That is why you have got to talk to them in primary school, isn’t it?

Mr Fraser —Our approach has been this. In our work we are focusing on policy, trying to get the policies right so that we can get those programs put into place. With our state representative bodies, an immense amount of work is done in Queensland that is absolutely first class, and I would recommend to the committee the work of the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy, QMEA. It is absolutely first class. It has got the industry working in the local schools and it is bridging that gap. It has got the engineers from the mines going in and working with the kids on their science projects; it has got the kids going out to the mines to do their work experience; it is offering scholarships for the kids who want to go on to university; it is offering apprenticeships for kids who want to go down that route. It is absolutely first class. That is about actually growing the pool of local labour, and keeping the people in the local region rather than losing them. So we see that as a critical part of our program: to grow the pool of skilled labour amongst the people who are already in these regions. So, if we are talking about relocation, I think we also need to be very aware that we need to keep the people that we have got there, and get them trained so that they can participate in our industry. That is where we have been putting a lot of our effort recently.

Mr HAASE —Thank you.

Mr PERRETT —I also want to return to Mr Haase’s previous question. I have a bit of a theory. Do you have hard data on the FIFO increase over the last decade?

Mr Fraser —No. And one of the holes that we found in working with the task force was that we do not have that data—we do not know exactly where people come from and where they go, even.

CHAIR —I can tell you that they go through Perth airport, if that’s any help!

Mr Fraser —But if they are leaving from Melbourne—I mean, I have worked FIFO, but I did not live in Melbourne; I lived out in the bush.

Mr PERRETT —Yes. With that, I have got a bit of a graph here that I will hand over to you. This is my theoretical graph. FIFO numbers are represented by the blue line, heading north, obviously. This is about investment in the mine community, in terms of that social licence. It is just a discussion topic. But in terms of that social licence being attached to the minerals—

Mr Fraser —To the local community.

Mr PERRETT —The local community, okay. FIFO obviously changes that, because with the MIM of the sixties the town community was isolated; no-one left. I am sure that with the North West Shelf you would have had a similar thing in the eighties. You lived there, you bred there, your kids went to school there, and maybe you retired somewhere else, or maybe you did not. But now that is changing. So now I am flying from Melbourne, I am flying from Cobar, I am flying from Cairns, or whatever, and I am flying to Cannington and then getting out of it. So that social licence is now being dispersed, I would suggest. It is being spread. I am looking to the mayor of Mackay, because my workforce is actually driving back to Mackay out of the Bowen Basin or the Surat Basin. Wherever you go, more and more the workers are leaving. That is why I would love to have that FIFO data.

Mr Fraser —Clearly that is identified as one of the needs. We know that about half the projects in WA are FIFO projects.

CHAIR —We are also finding fewer people directly employed by the mining companies. The group I really feel for are the smaller companies—

Mr PERRETT —The contractors and the subbies.

CHAIR —Yes. The people who are providing absolutely essential work in mining projects are not part of the direct labour force. They tend to be the ones living in the towns still, not the FIFOs.

Mr Fraser —So this is where I think this graph of yours, Graham, is not—

CHAIR —It will not be accepted as evidence.

Mr RAMSEY —Turn it upside down!

Mr Fraser —I think that part is possibly valid. Our experience is that people want to live on the coast and they want their families to live on the coast. FIFO suits a lot of people. It suits people at different times of their life too. But our approach is not this diminishing commitment; it is about growing those local communities. We see those local communities as including the Indigenous remote communities as well. They are the important part of the local bit. The companies are indicating and demonstrating a preference to employ locally. It is always going to be cheaper.

Mr PERRETT —Like the minerals college idea, which is about educating the local kids for a career in mining.

Mr Fraser —Yes, and out in our remote Indigenous communities it is about getting those people. Almost all companies operating with those remote Indigenous communities as neighbours have got programs where any person who can get through the prequalification can work there. We talked in our submission about the entry level qualification.

Mr PERRETT —Is that the farming skills?

Mr Fraser —No, the Indigenous one. They are guaranteed a start. Almost every company has an unlimited need because there are just not enough people.

Mr PERRETT —There are some success stories.

Dr Tuckwell —Can I just add one comment to that. Here I am wearing not my hat as member of the Minerals Council but my hat as chairman of a small gold company that has just opened a mine between Laverton and Leonora, Mount Morgan. Barry attended our official opening.

Mr PERRETT —Should we be buying shares?

Mr BIDGOOD —That still works for us.

Mr PERRETT —What are they trading at at the moment?

Dr Tuckwell —We are a tiddler.

CHAIR —Gold is good.

Dr Tuckwell —We have employed two Indigenous people from the local Mount Margaret Mission. They are on site. We are hoping that, by working for the industry, their knowledge of the industry will be carried back to the community. So the local community will develop changed attitudes to the mining industry. Our contractor is based out of Kalgoorlie, but we are still 350 kilometres away, so they have to fly in and fly out. But if you want to consider the broader goldfields region, they are part of it. We also fly in and out of Perth, so we have a mix. It is not all fly-in fly-out. We employ 60 people, and it is a small picture of what the industry does. I think it is a sound picture and all mining communities should adopt a similar approach. We cannot quantify it. There is not a plan for doing it, except that it is important, as Chris said, for that social licence to operate for the community to see that they can be part of the operation which is contributing to their financial and economic viability.

CHAIR —It is great to see new gold projects opening up. We thought the industry was going to be devastated by the gold tax in 1990.

Mr PERRETT —I think we are sending some workers out your way, aren’t we?

Dr Tuckwell —We are not that far away.

Mr RAMSEY —I want to touch again on the Indigenous employment programs. Given that you had the ‘Now Hiring’ effort in the eastern states and you landed one person out of it—

CHAIR —They didn’t land him; it was an expression of interest!

Mr RAMSEY —A lot of companies are running Indigenous employment programs at the moment. Once you take away the compulsion through native land use agreement or whatever to hire an Indigenous population and the social conscience saying that we really need to do something—which are both very good things—what is the bang for the buck like on the retraining programs as compared with other recruitment things you do? Is it stacking up as being a good viable source of labour or is it costing more than recruiting labour elsewhere?

Mr Fraser —It is patchy. The companies see this as a huge investment into establishing a long-term future workforce. It is always long term and it is always going to be a steady workforce. They are not going to move away. But the investment is huge, as you point out, and the results are patchy.

Mr RAMSEY —Some are certainly better than others.

Mr Fraser —There have been some great successes around Century, for example, in Queensland. Rosemary has been involved in some work in the Northern Territory where the companies, for the first time, have actually documented what skills and attributes they want these people to have, which is surprising but they had never ever bothered to sit down and actually do it. This is why I suggested we talk about the recruitment strategy. They had never actually documented it. They had rattled off things like free of drugs, timeliness et cetera but they had never actually sat down as a group of companies in the Northern Territory and specified what these employability features would be.

CHAIR —The point Barry was making is important: we are starting the engagement with, for example, the Indigenous community at a workforce age as opposed to starting that engagement at primary school where the behavioural issues and some of those things occur. I know from my involvement with the Clontarf Foundation in Western Australia that getting young Indigenous men to year 12 and qualify with basic literacy and numeracy is part of the key to making them employable.

Mrs Waghorne —The Northern Territory division of the Minerals Council is establishing a program in the Northern Territory with the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and SkillsDMC. A number of our member companies have committed to that. They have identified the pre-employability skills that they are looking for, including quite specifically literacy and numeracy but also those other foundation employability skills. The program will work on a simulated roster basis. Indigenous people will spend one week, for instance, in the college and they will work a 12-hour day. When I say work, they will do training and they will spend some time doing exercise or whatever it might be. You cannot spend all day in class. They will spend one week in their community and one week actually at the mine sites, which the companies have committed to, to get their on-site work experience. They have guaranteed the successful graduates a job.

Mr HAASE —Would that be on a two-on one-off basis? I am just wondering about the cycle of two weeks effective, one week off? Presently, when employed would that mirror the practical employment arrangements of two-on and one-off?

Mrs Waghorne —I think that varies from company to company.

Mr HAASE —That is one of my concerns. Too often I am sure well intended programs fail because we lower the bar, and the lowered bar becomes the norm and when we apply the real situation we fail.

Mr Fraser —I have had Indigenous leaders say the same thing to us. To answer your question, I do not think we can say that every one of those companies has that same roster.

—But I would say they are committed to provide a program that is as close as possible to real-life situations in their companies.

Mr HAASE —Twiggy Forrest tried it, you know. His experience with the Forrest VTEC had him offering real jobs. In those days he was offering 90 grand a year. In the end he had to cast the net wider and wider. He had Indigenous people coming up from the lands. It was an absolute failure.

Mr Fraser —Talking about these sorts of issues, I was working with some Indigenous people in South Australia last week. There are just not enough Indigenous people in South Australia to accommodate all the programs out there that are trying to get them into work.

Mr BIDGOOD —My electorate of Dawson covers the area from Mackay right through to Townsville. The Mayor of Whitsunday Regional Council, Mike Brunker, was born in Collinsville, a famous mining town. He has often commented to me that it is absolutely essential that we get investment from the mining companies not only for infrastructure but for training as well. I want to make a few statements and see what your response to them is. It is essential that we have basic infrastructure like decent roads with the increase in heavy goods vehicle traffic. We have two trades training colleges which are absolutely vital in linking schools to industry, particularly in the industrial and mining services area of the Paget industrial estate near Mackay airport. There are three local employment and skills training agencies in Mackay that specialise in Indigenous education and training for the mining industry—and MRAEL and Community Solutions are doing a great job. What is the Minerals Council’s involvement in the seat of Dawson? You can give that to me on notice. I am interested to know what sorts of incentives, investments and programs you are working on with local, state and federal government to provide skills training to young people, Indigenous people and the growing number of women entering mining services.

Mr Fraser —I cannot give you the dollar figure but I can tell you that our state body, the Queensland Resources Council, who we work very closely with and are part of our network, have very significant investment in the Bowen Basin area with the QMEA. I can only refer you to the QMEA website. They have very significant programs with the schools. Some of the trade training centres out in the mining communities are very much focused on the mining industry whereas some of the trade training centres in other areas are directed more at underwater basket weaving courses, which are not really relevant to our industry! But the courses in the Bowen Basin are relevant to our industry, and the program is working.

Mr BIDGOOD —I am conscious that QMEA is taking place in Mackay this July.

—To answer your question, our partner organisation the QRC is doing it and they have a very strong commitment. I cannot emphasise enough that they have the pre-eminent program that is really showing us the way.

Mr BIDGOOD —We have very low unemployment—less than 3.1 per cent. Our population is growing at four per cent a year, which is huge. We have very little rental accommodation available—less than one per cent. Local council cannot build quickly enough. Even the private sector is struggling because of the lack of tradies. So we see investment particularly in roads infrastructure as important. As we have heard the Prime Minister say so many times we need a ring road around Mackay because the Bruce Highway through Mackay is literally crumbling; it is dangerous.

Mr Fraser —I was there only a few weeks ago and I agree with those observations entirely. At the same time I also visited Cairns and it was completely different. I might have been in a different state altogether.

CHAIR —Yes, and that is part of the reason why we are having this inquiry. There is a typical mismatch. We are genuinely looking for ideas for how we can begin to address this. Your experience with Western Sydney is a little depressing I have to say. I am curious why you think that these tradespeople were not prepared to move. I have to say that this was probably in the context of a skills shortage where a tradesperson could have picked up any job anywhere and had some ability—

Mr Fraser —They were underutilised.

CHAIR —But you still could not attract them, for want of a better description.

Mr Fraser —We have puzzled long and hard on that. It is a good question. We did some research when we were setting up these now hiring campaigns. We were trying to understand who our target audience was. We were able to identify three types of people: those who go into the industry seeking financial reward, those going into the industry seeking career advancement—and they will go out into the bush for their career advancement—and those who go into the industry seeking lifestyle and want to live in the country. Those three groups of people all behave differently and we need to address our attraction strategies—

CHAIR —Were they approximately evenly distributed between the three?

Mr Fraser —Yes.

Dr Tuckwell —I think it is also important to say that during their career they may move from one of those categories to another. They are not locked into one.

Mr Fraser —So we have these tradesmen already living in Sydney. Presumably they are financially satisfied, so there was no financial need, they were satisfied with their lifestyle and they did not need to advance their careers. We struck a real dud and did our money there very quickly. We had every bus in Western Sydney with a sign on it saying, ‘Come and work in the mining industry.’

CHAIR —It was probably next to the one that said, ‘Go west and work in the mining industry.’

Mr Fraser —They cannot all be satisfied. There must be some who are seeking more financial reward, a bit of adventure or whatever it might be. We cannot prove this—and this is some of the stuff we have been doing with Gary Gray’s group—but we reasoned that there are a number of tradespeople who are competent but are not confident that they can make the transition from the industry they are in to our industry. They just do not have the confidence to make the leap whereas they are perfectly adequately skilled tradespeople. That is why one of the recommendations says we think there is scope for some form of bridging.

You also need to understand how our companies recruit. They do not recruit in the Sydney Morning Herald; they are actually recruited out on site. It is a risk to find out who you have to present yourself to and present yourself to them. So there is work to be done in understanding the recruitment part but we also think we could make it a lot more attractive if we could demystify our industry. It is no big deal to work around these big machines if you have worked around diesel trucks in a motor mechanics workshop—

CHAIR —Do you have a sort of brokerage type roll in that respect? If I was a family person, for example, it is not just the tradesperson who is going to make this big decision in an unusual industry or one they do not know; it is taking their family there as well. So someone who can talk about the actual location—what the school is like, what the employment opportunities may be—

Mr Fraser —Now we are getting into this other task force space, where we are clearly identifying some of those things as areas that we need to work on.

CHAIR —Ironically, some of the communities we have spoken to, whilst they are very appreciative of the investment from the minerals and resources sector, say that when the booms are on it sucks their labour force out of existing schools, medical centres, hospitals, community facilities—

Mr Fraser —And, you know, we are one per cent of the national work force—and we are to blame for everything!

CHAIR —Mind you, it does not help when you have local peak councils telling us in Western Australia that you need 450,000 additional skilled workers in the next seven years.

Mr Fraser —Our numbers are nothing like that. There is sufficient slack in the national workforce now to accommodate our needs; it is just a matter of how we get them to where we need them. That is the challenge.

CHAIR —Do you advertise? One of the questions we had is: how does an unemployed truck driver in Wollongong, or in Maddington in my electorate, find out about an opportunity to drive trucks in the mining industry?

Mr Fraser —That is what we have discovered too, going on this journey—we need to be able to explain to people  how those recruitment processes work, and they do not work by advertising. A lot of the recruitment is actually done on site—

CHAIR —By the contractors that are on site, or by someone walking up and knocking on the door?

Mr Fraser —By knocking on the door.

Mr HAASE —I think you would be aware that I am fairly close to the industry, and my experience from being in Karratha for 20 years and now in the Goldfields is that you are absolutely right—there is a degree of ignorance amongst the prospective employees that is overwhelming. I would see people arrive at the Burrup Peninsula during the Woodside construction days looking for a job, and of course on-site supervisory personnel would say, ‘Well, you’d best turn around and report 1,600 kilometres away in Perth, because that is where we are hiring from’. I see people arrive in Kalgoorlie today that have got pretty much empty pockets, they have got some very basic natural skills but they do not have the MARCSTA item and they do not know they have to get it—they are totally ill-informed. There is a sector of the community that will just load the trailer, take off and arrive looking for a job, and then another mob that will not move if you put a stick of gellie under them.

Mr Fraser —Can I add to that that we have been unable to actually advise people as to what those skills are that they need, because they vary from company to company. We are, again, working in this task force space. We are recognising that we have to identify those entry level skills and things at the regional level and have the local employers buy into them and all agree so that we can actually give people some sound advice as to how to go about getting a job. There is no one size fits all, as we have discovered. For all those stories you cite, we can give examples of the exact opposite—they will go to head office and be sent away.

Mr HAASE —Maybe it is an old fogey’s perception that these days it is so different, and the void between then and now is greater than it was in a previous generation. I am not sure about that. But it strikes me today that that young working age group that might have ventured out to the last frontier in the past do not do so today because they are so terrified about not appearing street smart when they find themselves in that new environment.

Mr Fraser —That is what I was talking about.

Mr HAASE —There was that television series that the ABC ran some time ago, Dirt Game. Did you measure anything about enrolments after that?

Mr Fraser —Our website got an enormous number of hits after every one of those shows.

Mr HAASE —And then outcomes?

Mr Fraser —We cannot measure those because we would often be encouraging people to go off to university to do mining engineering or whatever.

Mr HAASE —My perception is that that is what we need—a series about successful miners falling in love, pulling all the good chicks and having the fast cars. That is what we need in Australia!

Mr Fraser —One of the other holes—and it is a government area—is this. We are trying to get our heads around what are the entry level points and how companies do recruit and then we have to get that information to the Job Services Australia networks, because they do not know. So there are people in these areas of high unemployment who are trying to look after their clients but we are unable, as an industry and as a nation, to actually give them some clear guidance as to how you go about getting those jobs.

CHAIR —It is also one of the reasons why I was really pleased to hear you say that the industry is starting to address this issue of workforce development a bit more seriously and a bit more collectively, if I can describe it that way. I think that industry has to inform so government can drive vocational education and training, tertiary training or whatever to get the skills we need for the future.

Mr HAASE —What would you want us to recommend as a committee to make your engagement of workforce easier? Is there something that you would want to tell us if you had the opportunity?

CHAIR —I fancy they will tell us to agree to everything in the recommendations in the task force’s report—

Mr HAASE —I know. But this is the real world and you have got to prioritise. What do you want us to do?

Mr Fraser —We think there is serious work that we can do with the government on actually making those careers interesting to people. We have lost that network that we had in the schools with the careers advisers, so there is a real hole there. We can develop that interesting stuff, but how do we get it out to the careers teachers? That is a real issue.

Mr HAASE —So running vocational advisory officers in schools again?

CHAIR —It is something to ensure there is a better link between industry and schools in terms of informing students.

Mr Fraser —The careers advisers in schools get bombarded by every industry. If we send them stuff it goes straight in the bin. They just get too much of it.

CHAIR —It is much more interesting to a young person to hear from people who have got genuine experience.

Mr Fraser —So there is an issue there. Then it is through the QMEA and through direct links between the companies and their local schools. I think that is how you make that work. But there is some work that needs to be done.

CHAIR —Yes, with the local communities, so there are the links between the companies and the communities so there is that kind of holistic planning and community approach to attracting people to a region—

Mr Fraser —And keeping people.

CHAIR —Yes, keeping and retaining. I think that often in your industry one of the issues is when there is some sort of relocation from an area required because a long-term project or industry or whatever has closed. I remember the dislocation of people in Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun in Western Australia as a classic example.

Mr Fraser —One of the other areas that I think would be fruitful in working with government would be identifying those recruitment practices and the skills and attributes needed to actually achieve a job, because there is a lot of work to be done at a regional level and region to region. Employers have to own these outcomes, not us and not the government. That is so the Job Services networks can start to get people doing things that are related to a real job, not training for training’s sake. As Des would say, we have a job chasing a skill rather than a skill chasing a job.

CHAIR —Precisely. That is when funding from government to, for example, help young people get the qualifications required to work in the mining industry—so the start-up ones—

Mr HAASE —That’s MARCSTA.

CHAIR —Yes.

Mr Fraser —That is a pretty important thing. It is a pretty important step that often gets missed in trying to help people back into work. A lot of effort goes into training them but the training is not related to a job. Mr Haase, I have met numerous people in your area, such as Indigenous people, with their walls plastered with qualifications and they have never ever had a job.

Mr HAASE —Yes, they have not got something there.

Mr Fraser —We have got to get that connection so it is meaningful and is related to a job.

CHAIR —I want to thank you all very much for your attendance today. There may be some additional material that we have asked you for and the secretariat or we may come back to you at some stage with questions. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence to which you can make corrections as to grammar and fact. On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank you very much for your participation today.

Resolved (on motion by Mr Haase):

That this committee authorises publication, including publication on the parliamentary database, of the transcript of the evidence given before it at public hearing this day.

Committee adjourned at 12.20 pm