WA ministers have launched a cynical attack on Unions WA for calling for a royal commission into mine site deaths.The call for an inquiry was made earlier this month after the death of a worker at Aditya Birla’s Nifty copper mine, which was soon followed by the death of Josh Martin at the Newcrest Telfer mine, making four deaths in the WA mining industry this year.
WA Commerce portfolio minister Michael Mischin wrote off the public request from Unions WA, saying it was “desperation on the union movement to remain relevant by grabbing a headline”.
Mischin told the ABC there was nothing an inquiry could find which couldn’t be found by Safe Work Australia, the Department of Mines and Petroleum, or other safety bodies.
“While every workplace fatality is a tragedy, common sense tells us that some workplaces can be inherently dangerous – mine sites in particular,” he said.
“They require not only sound legislation, but properly crafted workplace safety regimes and constant vigilance on the part of not only all levels of management, but of workers themselves.”
Mischin said the use of statistics to measure the rate of deaths in the industry required longer time frames.
“In Western Australia, the average work-related incidence rate per one million workers for the five year period 2009-10 to 2013-14 is 13.1, compared to 14.1 from 2008-09 to 2012-13, a 7.1 per cent reduction, and sensible, honest, consideration of where safety can be improved requires case-by-case analysis,” he said.
WA’s annual number of mining deaths went down to zero for the year 2012, at the height of the mining boom.
Since then the number has increased to four deaths in the first half 2015.
Last year the mining industry saw a nationwide rate of one accidental death every fortnight.