ANGRY: MP George Christensen and MP Barnaby Joyce.
ANGRY: MP George Christensen and MP Barnaby Joyce. Allan Reinikka ROK290818resource

Chilling realities of CQ mines mistreating local communities

HORROR stories about the mining sector's impact on regional communities inspired a rare display of bi-partisan political unity and outrage in Rockhampton yesterday.

Magnet for controversy, former Nationals leader and current back bencher Barnaby Joyce is currently touring the nation as the chair of the Australian Parliament Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science, and Resources, leading an inquiry into the relationship between major mining operations and the communities within which they operate.

Established at the request of Resources Minister Matthew Canavan, the inquiry has visited Darwin, Rockhampton yesterday, and was set to visit Mackay today and Tamworth next Tuesday.


Barnaby Joyce: Barnaby Joyce
Barnaby Joyce: Barnaby Joyce

It sought to look at how mining royalties were shared between landholders and state governments, payment terms offered by mining companies, the impact of FIFO workforce models, barriers to involvement in mining industry procurement and "best practice" of mining businesses in dealing with regional communities.

After hearing Central Queensland businesses and stakeholders with interests in the mining sector share their perspectives, Mr Joyce was barely able to contain his rage regarding the injustices he had heard.

Speaking to gathered media with fellow committee members Labor MP Brian Mitchell and Nationals MP George Christensen, Mr Joyce blasted the mining companies for not doing the right thing by local communities.

It is understood that a number of businesses were forced to provide evidence via an intermediary because they were too afraid to present evidence, fearing of retribution from the mining companies who would pull their financial support.

"The evidence that we've heard today, to be quite frank, is very startling and I would say shocking," Mr Joyce said.

"It really questions unconscionable actions by a major player in how they deal with smaller players. To hear today of people who are owed up to four million dollars and then that money is held out for up to 120 days."

He said it worked out to be $200,000 to $300,000 being removed from CQ businesses "because of the power of a large mining company to exploit them" and "basically making that small business their bank".


George Christensen MP, Emma Banyer, Barnaby Joyce MP and Brian Mitchell Mp at public hearings held in Rockhampton focussed on the resources industry.
George Christensen MP, Emma Banyer, Barnaby Joyce MP and Brian Mitchell Mp at public hearings held in Rockhampton focussed on the resources industry. Allan Reinikka ROK290818resource

"And wait, it gets worse, then they say to the small business who says we've got no money because you owe us all this money and the big mining company says 'we'll lend you the money that we actually owe you' and they'll charge them interest on it," Mr Joyce said. "Wouldn't it just make sense to pay them the money you owe them?"

Mr Joyce said they heard evidence of motels payments withheld out for 90 days, mining companies naming a price that was non-negotiable or refusing to pay up unless five per cent was taken off their bills or demanding to see a full transparent cost breakdown in their quotes and enforcing a maximum of five per cent profit on top of that.

"In record times, in this silent mining boom, that is completely unconscionable, it is unfair," he said.

"We're also hearing how the wealth of Central Queensland, just the royalties itself, about $4 billion, heads off 600km down the road to Brisbane."

With mining wealth worth around $40 billion, he said it was sad to see how little of it was retained to be spent in this area.

"This committee has not fallen down out of the ceiling, it's been asked for by concerns that people have and they want those concerns addressed," he said.

Mr Joyce left the door open for the government to come down on large companies not doing the right thing, but was unwilling to name what steps they would take to restore fairness to the sector.

Looking at the approach of other countries (such as Canada) towards unscrupulous mining players standing over the small players, he suggested Australia adopt similar legislation to bring them into line.

His concerns regarding the disturbing behaviour of mining companies were echoed in the comments made by Mr Mitchell and Mr Christensen.

Leading into the inquiry, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said she was very pleased to have the hearings in Central Queensland.

"We are at the coal face of this discussion and it is imperative we get to the bottom of what is really going on," Ms Landry said.

"We all have anecdotes, both positive and negative, from the mining towns of the Bowen Basin and this hearing gives a real opportunity to have these aired in a serious fashion.

"This hearing is about making sure we in the regions that create the wealth that sustains our society get to share in the benefits of this creation."

Today, Ms Landry said on social media, "chilling realities of doing business in the #mining sector unearthed yesterday at the Rockhampton hearings, expect more to come today".