Gina Rinehart reignites foreign worker debate

Mining tycoon Gina Rinehart has once again flagged cheap foreign labour as a threat to Australian jobs in the mining industry.

Citing high labour costs, Rinehart last night said Australia needed to use "every advantage" to remain internationally competitive as resource wealthy countries continue to expand their undertakings, the Australian reported.

Speaking in Sydney last night, she said governments should follow former Queensland premier and National Party member Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s vision who encouraged mining companies like Rio Tinto to build their headquarters in Australia.

"When you bring a head office into your state, it opens up a whole lot of things," she said.

"Employment's one and it also gets the staff more focused on that state and this country, and we need every little bit of help we can get in Australia because our costs are getting so far out to make us less competitive and we've really got to be sensible because there's other countries out there with our resources.

"So things like having Rio Tinto here as their headquarters when most of their money is earned in this country, in particular Western Australia, I think it'd be nice for them to come to our country as a headquarters and hopefully focus more on Australia rather than Africa."

Rinehart admitted advocating reduced wages had not helped her in the popularity stakes, especially as she is currently listed as Australia’s wealthiest person, but she explained it is important for the country's mining future.

"I know people hate me saying (it), but their wage rates are so much lower over there and they're lower in lots of countries, like Indonesia, for instance, which is a coalmining country we're competing with," Rinehart said.

"Once you see . . . very wealthy resources countries in Africa opening up, they're going to be horrific competition."

Last week Australian Mining reported that officials at Rinehart’s Roy Hill project said if current economic conditions continue foreign workers will not be needed to help build the mine.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.