A Queensland MP and former coal miner has caused a backlash from colleagues, industry and the media over comments made in parliament on Tuesday night about the need for greater government control over mining companies.
Member for Mirani Jim Pearce told the Queensland parliament he had serious concerns about the failure of companies to rehabilitate old mine workings, as well as the treatment of workers by direct site management, as well as the effects of boardroom decisions.
“I am concerned that at this time in the history of coalmining in Queensland I am unable with confidence to point to any mining company that deserves the right to mine,” he said.
“It is a shambles at the moment. They need to be pulled back into line and only the government can do that.”
Pearce said that under the LNP government “mining companies have been allowed to take control and they have become really difficult to work with”.
He urged the Palaszcuk government to ensure that mining companies provided real protections for the environment, real jobs, and restored the resource sector community licence to operate.
“I think we could ask a lot of people within the companies at the moment what licence is to operate and they would not have a clue,” he said.
The comments drew immediate criticism from Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche, who said there was “no justification for this denigration of an entire industry”.
“Resource companies are particularly troubled because, as chair of the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee of the Parliament, Mr Pearce will be deliberating on legislation affecting our sector,” he said.
“They [mining companies] have asked me to seek assurances from the Premier that these are not sentiments shared by her,” Roche said.
Mines minister Anthony Lynham said Pearce’s comments did not reflect the position of government, but also indicated he did support some aspects of the Member for Mirani’s address, as he was concerned about the impacts of certain elements of mining.
Pearce said he did not want to see further disturbance due to mining, as only 20 per cent of land disturbed by mining in Queensland had been rehabilitated.
“That has been increasing significantly every year while the companies have been allowing that to drag behind,” he said.
“That has to stop because too many of them walk off their sites, leave the small bonds behind and allow the next person to come along and accept those bonds.
“If you really are interested in rehabilitation and what happens in the coalfields, I will tell you now: It’s a bloody disgrace.”
Pearce, a former coal mine worker of 11 years experience and CFMEU advocate, said it was the role of government and the people to "jump of these mining companies and make them do the right thing" when it came to treating workers with respect and ensuring job security for people in mining communities.
"I know the Queensland coal industry workforce have the expertise and the knowledge to keep the future correctly balanced economically and environmentally for Queenslanders," he said.
"The only people who just do not get it are those people who sit around the boardroom table of the multinationals and those who stand at some level on the pathway to success at a mine site.
"They treat the workforce with a lack of respect: There is a lot of abuse occuring."
One mining executive was quoted by the Courier Mail as saying Pearce was either out of his depth or "coming at us from a nakedly partisan position".
"Whichever is the case he's got to be given a clip over the ear and told to shut-up."
Image: The Morning Bulletin