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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6375


Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (10:35): I welcome the plan to establish a subcommittee of the federal parliamentary Labor Party to examine issues relating to enterprise migration agreements. I hope this subcommittee will be able to investigate and get to the bottom of what are clearly contested issues of fact concerning these proposed agreements. The issue of pay rates is contested. We are told migrant workers are required to be paid the same rates as Australian workers, but the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union insists that in the Pilbara the best part of 200 Chinese workers are being paid 50 to 60 per cent of Australian worker wages, and that companies use devices to pay lower wages, such as bringing workers to Australia as tradesmen, but then paying them as labourers.

It is also a contested issue of fact as to whether there is or is not a shortage of Australian workers prepared to go to the mine sites to do the work. On the one hand, the mining companies claim there is a shortage. On the other hand, unions such as the Australian Workers Union say they have many workers ready, willing and able to do this work. One of my constituents has supported this view, saying he is a fly-in fly-out worker to a mine in Queensland. He spent $30,000 and five years studying part time to be a surveyor to move into the mining industry and earn a decent wage. He says the idea that there are not enough people willing to work in this industry is laughable as:

I have been trying to break into my first job for over 12 months and I am qualified in a field that is apparently in short supply. I have previous experience in management, I'm highly computer literate and I have the highest marks available for my degree, yet I never got a response from many job ads.

He says that, having worked in the mining industry for a few months now, he sees enterprise migration agreements as:

… a way to reduce wages and increase profits at the expense of local workers and safety … If a company knows that they can get access to cheaper labour they will offer the initial work at a wage or on terms that no-one here is interested in. Working remotely away from your family and friends should be rewarded, but some companies will start reducing wages or not paying employees for days that are rained out in order to drive interest away.

He concludes by saying:

Hopefully this email provides some perspective from a mining worker and encourages you to get companies to pursue all the opportunities here before we ruin an opportunity for many Australians to prosper rather than just the company bosses.

The fact is that we need to ensure that training is provided for Australian workers, particularly Indigenous ones. I know it is claimed that Australian workers do not have the necessary skills and are not ready. But neither is the project. If you go onto the Roy Hill website at www.royhill.com.au/employment and look under 'employment opportunities', there are none. It is pretty hard for the company to claim that it cannot find Australian workers to do this work when it has not even advertised yet. It has not tried.