Joyce raises concerns about the number of 'drive-in' workers in mining industry

VISITING:Chairman Barnaby Joyce and David Gillespie listen to speakers in Singleton at the inquiry into the mining sector.
VISITING:Chairman Barnaby Joyce and David Gillespie listen to speakers in Singleton at the inquiry into the mining sector.

A hearing held in Singleton on Monday (November 5) was told by Singleton Council’s general manger Jason Linnane that an estimated 9000 workers drive-in each day to run the region’s coal mining industry.

The hearing chaired by the Member for New England, Nationals, Barnaby Joyce is part of an inquiry into the mining sector’s support for businesses in regional economies. It is held under the auspices of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources. 

On hearing those figures Mr Joyce described the situation as insane and asked the question why were so many workers not living locally.

“This probably explains the daily traffic chaos in town at the change of shifts,” he said.

“Given the wealth from coal royalties produced in this district we have to ask the question what do we get from that money.”

“And what infrastructure do we need to create to ensure those 9000 workers live locally.

“This town needs a better bang for its buck from these extractive industries.”

Mayor Sue Moore told the inquiry it was a significant challenge handling the daily inflow of workers. 

Mr Linnane said the town had no real passenger train service because of the need to move coal down to the port of Newcastle.

The pair were also questioned about how they obtained monies from the state government with Member for Lyne David Gillespie asking if a formal royalty program existed in NSW.

Mayor Moore said Council applied for funding through the state’s Resources for Regions Program but there was no guarantee on the outcome of these applications.

The country’s biggest coal miner Glencore gave a presentation on its operations with the company’s coal division, director of logistics and procurement, Anthony Pitt saying 5000 employees worked for them in the Hunter Valley.

“Singleton Council area is home to 775 of our coal employees and their families,” he said. A statement which once again prompted Mr Joyce to question why so few lived locally.

“On those figures 60 per cent of your workforce don’t live close by – how do we change this?” he asked.

“I think we need to see the Resources for Regions wealth being put back into these Local  Government Areas so there is greater investment in local infrastructure.”

Mr Pitt went went onto explain the operations of Glencore including its $80 million investment in the last 10 years in community organisations and initiatives across their Australian coal business.

“In the Singleton region alone we have spent more than $50m since 2012 on road upgrades, bridges and overpasses and contributions to infrastructure maintenance and community projects via voluntary planning agreements,” Mr Pitt said.

Mr Pitt said Glencore’s coal division, which runs the country’s largest coal export business, head office was located at Bulga Coal near Broke showing their commitment to supporting regional communities 

Commenting on their payment process for suppliers and contractors, which was one of the reasons for the establishment of the inquiry, Glencore’s Kylie Kelly, Group manager shared services, said the company followed standard commercial practices, including paying immediately for some items and having many 30 day accounts.

Mr Joyce, who expressed his strong support for the nation’s coal industry, said the fact Glencore was continuing to invest in the industry, from a company agnostic to where their profits were made, showed there was a bright future for Australian coal.

“Now 90 per cent of their coal is exported which shows we will extract coal locally but we now don’t want to use that coal in our own power industry,” he said

“It is bleeding obvious that power is driven by coal across the world.”