Ore excavation at a Rio Tinto iron ore mine in the Pilbara region.
Peter Dutton says the mining industry will be at risk if the government's workplace reforms pass. Image by Alan Porritt/AAP PHOTOS
  • work relations

Workplace reforms will stifle mining sector: Dutton

September 6, 2023

The mining industry will be put at risk if the government is allowed to pass its workplace reforms, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says.

The proposed changes, introduced to parliament on Monday, are aimed at ending exploitative practices including companies using labour hire workers to undercut the rate of pay agreed for employees.

The reforms also seek to criminalise wage theft, bolster protections for gig workers, create a pathway for casuals to become permanent, and end discrimination against survivors of domestic violence. 

The Liberal leader has indicated the coalition will oppose the proposals due in part to the consequences they could have on the mining industry.

The sector contributes almost 14 per cent of GDP and employs 250,000 people, with exports set to earn $460 billion this year.

Mr Dutton told the Minerals Council of Australia on Wednesday the reforms would “unwind thousands of successful workplace-level arrangements that have enabled business to grow and employees to receive higher wages”.

Employers would be denied the choice to use labour hire workers and contractors, preventing companies from expanding and appropriately managing their operations.

“If these businesses go bust then there’s less workers and service providers in the system, more pressure on supply chains, and consequently, fewer mining projects commencing,” he said.

“The Albanese government’s industrial relations reforms should be of great concern to the mining sector.

“The coalition will stand against them.”

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said it would be a “pretty tough argument” to say the mining industry could not afford to pay its workers a bit more.

“In these industries, we’ve got this weird situation at the moment where labour hire is paid less,” he said.

“We’ve got to fix it.”

CEO of the MCA Tania Constable has made her apprehensions about the bill clear, calling its measures “an act of national economic self-harm”.

She claimed it does not close any loopholes and would instead “catch every business in Australia that employs staff” and “increase the cost of everything for everyone”.

Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said the building and construction industry would be damaged by Labor’s industrial law changes.

“Make no mistake, the rights of independent contractors to be their own boss is under threat,” she said on Wednesday.

“The government’s ‘closing the loopholes’ bill will not foster business growth, will not create new jobs and will not increase productivity.

“Wrapping a rope of unnecessary, complex, ambiguous, and costly laws around the industry will do nothing to speed up our efforts in tackling the housing crisis.”