The Guardian • Issue #2080

Crying over pennies

Mining companies cry wolf on Closing Loopholes Bill

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2080
Large mining truck.

Photo: Spelio – (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

While the Closing Loopholes Bill is not perfect, it would go some way to making sure that workers doing the same job would be paid the same amount – which seems only fair. Mining companies, who have been making a fortune by casualising workers through labour hire companies don’t see it that way of course.

Mining companies have made extreme claims about the economic impact of the Closing Loopholes Bill, but new research published by the ACTU shows that the Bill would cost the industry, at most, just 0.016 per cent of their profits. They can spare it.

The ACTU paper published today also reveals:

Mining companies could immediately give every single Australian worker – 14 million of them – a cost of living pay rise of 6 per cent and still be the most profitable industry in the country.

Mining profits have increased 194 per cent over the past decade but wages in the industry have gone backwards 6 per cent in real terms.

Despite claims the Closing Loopholes Bill will harm investment, the mining industry only invested about 14 per cent of its income back into the industry – the lowest level since at least 2001. They are banking four times more in profit than they are reinvesting back into the country.

BHP, leading the charge to defeat the Closing Loopholes Bill, claimed it would cost it $1.3 billion. This fanciful figure is 26 times higher than the estimated total cost facing the entire mining industry according to government estimates.

BHP does not even believe its own estimate, because if it did, it would have declared it to investors and shareholders as a “material risk,” as it is required to do by law.

The ACTU paper also shines a spotlight on the impact of labour hire on the Australian economy, and argues that the loophole pioneered by mining companies has now spread across the economy. Nearly all the top 100 companies on the Australian Stock Exchange use labour hire, and the largest 12 labour hire companies are now in the top 30 private employers in the country, with many paying little to no tax.

According to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus, “This labour hire loophole, exploited and pioneered by the large mining companies and the likes of Qantas will spread if it is not closed. Labour hire workers, economy-wide, earn around $4700 a year less than other workers, it is being used as a scheme to drive down wages, and it is particularly insidious in a cost-of-living crisis.

“It’s time for Peter Dutton and the cross bench to decide: Do you want to support the extreme profits of these behemoth corporations, or do you want to help working people?”

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