The Labor Party strongly supports our coal mining industry; we always have and always will. The Libs and Nats say they do too, and I don't dispute that, but, unlike Labor, they do not support the industry's most valuable asset. That, of course, is its workforce. The question becomes: does One Nation support our coal miners?

Over the course of the last month, the Newcastle Herald has run a series of articles based on speeches made in the other place by Senator Malcolm Roberts from One Nation. Senator Roberts has asserted that both the miners union and I have failed in our duty to offer support, advice and protection for our local coal miners. Nothing could be further from the truth. Senator Roberts has also, under parliamentary privilege, offered a conspiracy theory— but we all know that Senator Roberts is fond of conspiracy theories. Indeed, he has asserted that the union and Coal Services, the entity behind Coal Mines Insurance, have somehow conspired to deny injured coalminers the support they deserve. This, of course, is absolute rubbish.
Coal Services is jointly owned and operated by the union and the New South Wales Minerals Council, and is a regulator heavily regulated by the New South Wales government. Now while some might be open to the idea that a coal company might be interested in prioritising profit over people—not something I subscribe to—surely no- one would believe that the union is capable of such thinking. Of course, Coal Services and Coal Mines Insurance should be measured not only on the support they provide injured miners but also on the reductions in accidents and lost injury time. Both provide impressive statistics. Senator Roberts also raised the matter of creeping casualisation in the coal mining industry. He's right to identify it as a problem, but we need solutions and he's not backing them.
Labor took to the last election a promise to legislate to guarantee for a same-job, same-pay regulatory framework and to address the unfairness highlighted by the Skene case in the Federal Court. We promised to insert an objective definition of 'casual' in the Fair Work Act. Senator Roberts has asserted I had failed to adequately support local coalminers who have suffered injury in our local coal mines. I reject this assertion absolutely, and my records put pay to this lie. If Senator Roberts is serious about joining me and the union in supporting our miners, he will withdraw his vote in the Senate until the Morrison government acts to turn the tide on casualisation. Rather than vote with the conservative government on almost 100 per cent of occasions, Senator Roberts and his colleagues could withdraw their vote from the government until it is prepared to address the creeping casualisation problems and all of those issues that flow with it.
Senator Roberts could mark down at least three things he could do in cooperation and partnership with the Labor Party. He could ensure that all of the benefits of union negotiated EAs go across the whole workforce. He could ensure the right to be treated as a permanent, with all of the benefits that come with it, when, for all intents and purposes, coal miners are permanents. He could ensure the ability to access the support, the benefits, the treatment and the rehabilitation available to coal miners when they are insured by coal mines insurance.
Throughout the recent New South Wales election campaign, and then again during the federal election campaign this year, Senator Canavan wandered around the Hunter Valley saying the government had a plan to fix casualisation. Indeed, he said they had legislation to fix casualisation. Well, that was partly true. He even asserted that the Labor Party was frustrating the legislation, which is absolutely not true. All that bill did was provide employees with the right to ask the employer to be considered as a permanent—to ask the employer. Well, good luck with that! The really curious thing is that six months after the election, that bill having not made its way through the Senate prior to the election, the government have not even brought that weak bill back to the parliament. I challenge them to do so. I challenge them to bring back an improved bill, one which truly addresses the casualisation problem by inserting an objective definition of what a casual is.

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  • Joel Fitzgibbon
    published this page in Media 2019-11-29 14:28:59 +1100