Prime Minister Julia Gillard has attended the 16th annual memorial service at the Jim Comerford Memorial Wall at Cessnock to remember miners who have lost their lives.
Reflecting on the miners killed in the Hunter, she described the wall as a fitting place for us to gather and reflect’’ on those who have lost their lives, according to the Newcastle Herald.
More than 1800 miners have been killed since mining first started in the Hunter Valley, “more than all the soldiers killed in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined,” Gillard said.
The oldest was 73, the youngest only 11.
Prior to 2001, there was not a single year where a miner was not killed.
Gillard also acknowledged the family of coal miner Peter Jones, who was killed earlier this year when a mine wall collapsed underground.
She labelled the ongoing deaths in the industry as a contemporary reality in this valley and in this industry,” adding that it is “not enough to be sorry after the fact.
“Every employee has the right to leave for their job in the expectation they will return safe home, they will be there for their family and friends when the working day is done.
“It is as fundamental a right as there can be in our workplaces and in our laws.”
She went on to say mine safety is a priority, and that the Federal Government has recently decided to ratify an International Labor Organisation convention, known as Convention 176, which will help other countries to increase their OH&S levels in mines.
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) district president Peter Jordan said safety should always remain in focus.
“We only have to remember the Pike River mine disaster in November last year, where it appears that both regulation and enforcement were found wanting,” Jordan said.
Image: Maitland Mercury.