ONE Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts has laid down the gauntlet to BHP and other coal industry bodies, accusing them in parliament of collusion and other wrongdoing over the Mount Arthur "casuals" controversy.
Speaking in an adjournment debate in the Senate on Tuesday night, Senator Roberts said he had spent two weeks examining the claims of injured former Mount Arthur mine worker Simon Turner and others who had turned to One Nation for help, and believed what they were telling him was accurate.
"The facts speak for themselves Madam Acting Deputy President," Senator Roberts told parliament in a summary towards the end of a 10-minute speech.
"These people went to BHP, who covered up their injuries and incidents. They went to Chandler MacLeod who refused to accept the claims for decent pay and conditions and a fair go and were exploiting these people. They went to [the] Fair Work [Commission] and were ignored.
"They went to the CFMMEU [Construction, Forestry, Maritime and Mining Union] and were abandoned, discarded, tossed out. They went to the local ALP MPs and were shown the door. The government agencies did nothing to help, and the Liberal state ministers these people approached, did the same."
The Herald's reports of these issues earlier in the month:
Senator Roberts said the mine workers who had come to him through One Nation Hunter candidate Stuart Bonds had been "left out in the cold by their big multinational employer and big union".
"Simon, and many other everyday Australians like him, were employed by Chandler MacLeod under sub-standard pay and conditions, including no leave, no penalty rates, no accident cover, no shift allowance, no coal workers' compensation, no long service leave and possibly cut superannuation," Senator Roberts said.
"Yet their mates, the full-time BHP production workers they worked beside did, rightly so, get these benefits.
"Yes, BHP, the Big Australian, who disregards and discards everyday Australians and leaves them underpaid, broken, abandoned. BHP and Chandler MacLeod have been exploiting these miners as casuals, even though these casuals work side by side with the permanent workforce, yet for years were underpaid 40 per cent . . . yet on the same rosters projected two years into the future as permanents."
Senator Roberts said he had made "serious claims" about the issue recently in Senate estimates hearings, and publicly in the media. He said he'd been told that "some parties appear to have committed outright fraud against these miners". He said he had told the federal Attorney General's Department and Liberal Senator Marise Payne.
"Some miners have been crippled, physically, emotionally, mentally, and until not long ago, nobody cared," Senator Roberts said.
"I have publicly called for action against the employer Chandler Macleod, the mine operators BHP, the union, and possibly against members of parliament, state government inspectors and agencies and the NSW Minerals Council."
Senator Roberts said the employers and the union "must have known what they were doing was wrong, and that it was also morally wrong".
"Their employer and the union ignored the industry award," Senator Roberts said.
"But to rub salt into the wounds of these miners, Fair Work ignored their calls for help too.
"There is a complex web of companies in this matter. Coal Mines Insurance and Coal Mines Services who operate in the Hunter Valley are both owned 50/50 by the CFMMEU and the NSW Minerals Council, the employer entity.
"And AusCoal Super are also owned by some of these parties, so whichever way they turned, these people had no chance. They were dealing with government legislated monopolies.
"The CFMMEU ignored the rights of these honest workers from beginning to end. They signed off on a sub-standard employment agreement. The CFMMEU broke the trust of these workers and discarded them.
"When these workers took their concerns to the local federal Labor member of parliament, Joel Fitzgibbon, they were shown the door again, six times. As did the ALP state MP and Liberal state ministers.
"How hard must it have been for these champions to keep going."
Senator Roberts said the Fair Work Commission and the Long Service Leave Authority were "like a mirror".
"Fair Work said they would look into it, but nothing came back to protect these workers," Senator Roberts said.
He said One Nation stood up for the "everyday people" the major parties ignored and would do whatever it could to ensure BHP, Chandler Macleod and the union were "held accountable and made to pay for their collusion, hurting so many people".
"I know that decent Australians will want to see these rogue organisations held accountable for their abuses, before it happens to them," Senator Roberts said.
He said the time for action had arrived and he called on BHP, Chandler Macleod and the union to respond.
The Newcastle Herald is also seeking responses from the organisations named by Senator Roberts.
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