23/06/2022 - 16:04

Industry, govt promise change amid scathing mine report

23/06/2022 - 16:04

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Miners, industry bodies and the state government have vowed to do what they can to stamp out sexual harassment amid a scathing report detailing the breadth and severity of the issue.

Industry, govt promise change amid scathing mine report
Simone McGurk said the state government took the issue seriously.

Mining companies, industry bodies and the state government have vowed to make sweeping changes to stamp out sexual harassment in the sector amid a scathing report detailing the breadth and severity of the issue.

This morning, the Community Development and Justice Standing Committee handed down its ‘Enough is Enough’ report calling for urgent action on the issue.

Among the 24 recommendations were calls for an industry-wide register for offenders, victim centric reporting, better data collection, a more accurate description of sexual harrassment and industry standards for accommodation facilities, CCTV, lighting and drinking standards.

During a press conference this afternoon, Women's Interests Minister Simone McGurk said the state government took the issue seriously and was eager to work with industry to address it.

She said the state government would commit to reviewing all of the report’s recommendations closely to consider whether they were practical initiatives that would improve outcomes at the workplace level.

But she stopped short of providing an iron-clad guarantee the government would be able to rid the sector of the issue.

While acknowledging the issue was not confined to the mining industry, Ms McGurk highlighted the role the dominance of men had played in allowing it to flourish and grow in prevalence.

“The mining industry is one that prides itself on saying that safety is at the core of its sector, of its work,” she said.

“But it's very clear hearing the stories that have been presented to the committee that women sexual harassment and sexual assault were not considered worthy of being taken seriously.

“While we would say that this is shocking, sadly, for many women, it's not surprising.

“I've seen indications that the resources sector is interested in addressing this and now it is up to them to say whether they're not just going to talk about this but they're actually going to deliver and take these issues seriously.

“We want to join with industry and the community to understand these issues and do everything we can to stamp them out.

“Can I say that it's not a problem and we can stamp it out? I wish I could, but we know that this is prevalent across all industries and we've got a lot of work to do.”

The report was highly critical of the industry’s regulator, the state’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, slamming its inadequate reporting and questioning how it could  have accepted the level as reflecting the true situation on the ground.

WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh insisted the regulator would do what it could to change the industry, describing the accounts heard in the inquiry as harrowing.

He said it was vital the industry worked together to implement the changes recommended.

“As the regulator, we’re 100 per cent committed to doing our part to ensure that we get change in the industry. 

“We have made changes already, including producing new information codes to give guidance to the industry and help it to understand its obligations, but there is still a long way to go. 

“From a regulator’s perspective, we have got very skilled and competent people to deal with these issues and we’ll continue to train our inspectors to ensure that they provide the best investigative support and information to the industry, but it’s a joint effort.”

The state’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the report, with president Nicolle Jenkins and chief executive Chris Rodwell urging businesses of all sizes and sectors to strengthen commitments to professional behaviour and diversity and inclusion.

CCIWA called on the government to reform unfair dismissal laws in order to strengthen the ability of employers to dismiss those guilty of harassment and bullying.

“This is a whole of society problem, and businesses stand ready alongside workers, unions, government and the community to tackle it. CCIWA will work closely with the WA business community to consider the Committee’s recommendations and provide a response to the government,” the statement read.

The Mineral Council of Australia's chief executive Tania Constable welcomed the report, conceding the industry still had a long way to go to eliminate sexual harassment and vowed to support members to achieve the reforms.

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy has agreed to do what it can to stamp out sexual harrassment, with acting chief executive Rob Carruthers saying the chamber would now take time to digest the report and its recommendations in full.

“CME and its member companies have been open in saying that we have work to do to ensure our workplaces are safe and inclusive for all of the sector’s 156,000 employees – and the Inquiry is part of that,” he said.

“Any instances of sexual assault or sexual harassment on site or in work-adjacent settings are completely unacceptable and the health and safety of our workers must always be our sector’s number one priority.”

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