Free trade deal fine print alarming
There is trouble afoot in the local mining industry and some local workers have reason to be concerned about their job future.
In the period between the two world wars there were many displaced persons who came from the war ravaged European countries to our place, to start a new life.
Most of them made it and, over time, became proud Australian citizens.
Indeed the very discovers of Kalgoorlie were from Ireland.
While it is true that the Irish can sometimes be difficult to understand, they at least speak English.
In the mining industry it was necessary to put careful safeguards in place to manage the initial language difficulties of the new arrivals of the 1920s and 30s.
No one was allowed to work underground without at least a grasp of English for reasons of safety, but apparently no more.
News has emerged this week that the registered manager of a very large local gold miner speaks no English at all.
All of his instructions have to come via an interpreter.
This has resulted in the resignation and immediate departure of the School of Mines-trained local manager who was not allowed to do or act on anything — and I mean anything — unless personally approved by the new bloke, via the interpreter.
This raises serious issues of accountability where the registered manager must be fully accountable for the safety of the mine site.
So, in the 1930s, to work underground, you had to understand basic English so you could work safely for yourself, and your workmates, but now you can be responsible for the whole mine and not understand a word.
Have we lost something in this process? Clearly we have. And you may ask why this is important.
Let me guide you to the China-Australia free trade agreement signed in Canberra in early June and currently under heated debate in the Federal Parliament.
You would normally expect the Opposition to oppose such a “deal” on fundamental political grounds and some of that side of the “house” certainly do but, in a general sense the ALP supports the “deal”.
Not so the unions though, and we are destined to see a lot more public division and protest.
Ordinarily I might be of the view that the unions are just stirring up unnecessary trouble, but when I see that jack-in-the-box Christopher Pyne — who, by the way, is the Education Minister and has nothing to do with trade — leap into the fray I get a little suspicious.
And there, hidden in the fine print, is the “hook” in so far as it can affect us.
Chinese investors in projects valued at more than $150 million will receive additional rights to bring in temporary migrant workers to Australia without local labour market testing.
That is an “open-sesame” clause that will clear the way for unfettered numbers of Chinese workers so we might not have just a manager that can’t speak a word of English, but a whole mine workforce. It’s downright scary. And please don’t try any of this xenophobic crap on me. It won’t work because I’m not and never have been.
Save your breath.
It’s not about Chinese, it’s about safety and jobs.
At least the Australian Chinese free trade agreement is public, unlike the Trans-Pacific Partnership which is still shrouded in secrecy so not even the Members of Parliament are allowed to know what’s in it.
Why we are not allowed to know the contents of an agreement between Australia and other countries is an absolute indictment of the current Australian Government who expect us trust them. They are delusional. Just like the Chamber of Minerals and Energy which I expect will do and say absolutely nothing about the transformation taking place in an important mining operation right on our doorstep.
You may well ask what the Department of Minerals and Energy are doing about it as well but they are still consumed with trying to destroy the livelihoods of the smaller local prospectors and miners to be too much interested.
Their interest and effort is much more focused on worrying about the stygofauna and saving weeds, or the jobs of the army of green zealots in the metropolitan offices of the DMP’s environmental division than with the safety and job futures of the ordinary Aussie worker.
That’s my opinion, what do you think?
Christopher Pyne is a big fan of the free trade deal.