In a disappointing development, a parliamentary committee led by Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce investigating how mining supports regional Australia, has targeted employers using labour hire and casual employee arrangements.

It comes after the Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources Committee tabled the report for its mining inquiry, entitled Keep it in the regions: Mining and resources industry support for businesses in regional economies.

In a surprising revelation, the Coalition-dominated committee followed ALP policy by calling for the replacement of “directly employed, full-time workers with ‘permanent casual’ employees, and other similar casualised employee types”.

The committee recommended a review of casualisation and labour hire, with a view to amending the Fair Work Act to prevent misuse, particularly in the mining industry.

“Changes to the act should also include provisions that guarantee that employees have a legal right to convert from casual to permanent employment after a set period of time,” the report said.

AMMA is disappointed to see this parliamentary committee buy into divisive language and ill-informed campaigns against responsible and appropriate use of labour hire and casual employment arrangements.

“Labour hire is a very small part of the resources and energy workforce,” AMMA Chief Executive Steve Knott said.

“According to the ABS, 96.5% of the resources and energy workforce is full-time, while less than 1% of the nation’s casual workforce comes from the industry.

“Nonetheless these arrangements are essential for engaging skilled workers for short-term or contract work, particularly in the more cyclical, project-based areas of our industry. On major resources and energy projects, a reliable source of contract labour contributes to the efficiency and success of projects, which ultimately deliver great benefits to the Australian economy.

“Having a wide range of engagement models available to employers and employees is increasingly important in the modern economy, where people demand more flexibility in how, when and where they work. Research released by AMMA this week shows Australians engaged in part-time, casual or contracting arrangements consider them broadly satisfactory.

“Casual employees working under an award already have an option to convert to permanency after 12 months. Many choose not to take this up as the lifestyle flexibility and higher wages that come with casual work appeal to them.”

The Australian Government has since announced today it intends to legislate to provide regular casual employees the right to request to move to full-time or part-time employment.

For analysis of today’s announcement, click here.