Free trade deal fine print alarm­ing


Kalgoorlie Miner - - OPINION - Doug Daws

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?


Pic­ture: Ste­fan Pos­tles

Christo­pher Pyne is a big fan of the free trade deal.

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