ANTHONY ALBANESE MP
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY
MEMBER FOR GRAYNDLER
ABC CAPRICORNIA BREAKFAST
THURSDAY, 12 MARCH 2020
SUBJECT: The McKell Institute’s ‘Wage-cutting Strategies in the Mining Industry’ report.
INGA STUNZER, HOST: Good morning Mr Albanese.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning, good to be with you.
STUNZER: What will you be talking about when you’re in Mackay?
ALBANESE: Well I’ll be releasing this report along with the miners’ union today. This is having a devastating impact, not just on individual workers who are earning up to 40 per cent less, don’t have job security, don’t have issues like sick leave or annual leave, but it’s also having a devastating impact on the communities by taking money, essentially, out of those regional mining communities.
STUNZER: What are some other concerns that have come out of this report?
ALBANESE: Just take the economic impact. It shows that the annual impact on the Mackay, Isaac, Whitsunday economy is some $296 million and $245 million being stripped from the central Queensland economy. And that’s because casuals who don’t have job security are less likely to put down their roots in those communities. They’re more likely to be just travelling in and out. They also are earning less, and that’s having an impact as well on issues like safety in the workplace. Nine out of every ten respondents to this survey agreed that casualisation of jobs at my worksite affects safety. And that is extraordinary. Six in ten casual mine workers say they fear reprisal if they speak up about safety. And in a dangerous industry such as this, it is a real issue. The union took the issue to court in the matter of Workpac vs Skene, one of the workers affected. And that established that the permanent casual work model that was being pursued by the mining companies wasn’t lawful. But the decision is being challenged in the courts by the employers. The Federal Government, extraordinarily, are intervening in the interests of employers, not of the workers. And it’s about time that the north and far north Queensland representatives, and central Queensland representatives such as Matt Canavan, actually spoke up for the workers instead of just representing the employers.
STUNZER: Well Mr Albanese, this issue of casualisation isn’t just happening in the mining industry. It’s happening in many sectors. So is Labor going to be looking outside of mining?
ALBANESE: Absolutely. We think that a very simple principle here, which is same work, same pay. If people are doing exactly the same work, then what shouldn’t happen is two people next to each other, one being employed permanently with proper wages and conditions, and the other person being used essentially as a tactic. This is an abuse. There’s a role, of course, for casual workers that has existed for a long period of time. And it’s not surprising as the economy has become more diverse that there’s been an increase in the number of casual workers. But what we’re seeing here is essentially people doing work which is permanent, but they’re being classified as casuals, simply as a strategy by employers to cut their costs by cutting the amount of wages and the conditions which people are entitled to.
STUNZER: What then has Labor actually proposed to do to deal with this?
ALBANESE: What we’ve proposed is that as part of the industrial relations system there be that principle of same work, same pay enshrined. And the first thing that should happen is the Federal Government should withdraw their support for the employers in this case that’s currently before the courts.
STUNZER: And are you taking these concerns to the mining companies today, not just speaking to the union and workers?
ALBANESE: We certainly are, and we’ve made our position very clear to the mining sector that we expect that people will be paid properly, and we’re opposed to essentially sleight of hand, is what we’re seeing here in order to cut costs. It’s not on. The mining sector, of course, contributes a great deal to our economy and we think it’s a vital sector. But it’s important that those people who do the hard yards, those people in the workplaces, in the mines, get rewarded for their efforts.
STUNZER: Have the mining companies acknowledged these issues to you?
ALBANESE: The mining companies, not surprisingly, in the nature of these things, would prefer for their profits to be increased at the expense of their costs. But what we need is a government that actually stands up for the interests of working people and we’re not getting that at the moment.
STUNZER: Mr Albanese, thanks very much for your time this morning.
ALBANESE: Thanks for talking with me.