BARNABY Joyce’s inquiry in to the relationship between the mining sector and regional businesses has handed down its recommendations, including making resource companies pay contractors within 30 days.
The joint parliamentary committee heard stories of large mining companies regularly withholding payments to their small and medium local contractors for more than 60 days.
“Mining companies have essentially been using regional businesses as a bank,” Mr Joyce said.
“It’s time for this practice to stop. Our nation has an obligation to make sure that in the region where the wealth is extracted, the greatest benefit goes back to the people who live in the same area.”
Since the inquiry launched, mining companies Anglo American, Peabody and BHP have all changed their payment policies to offer payment terms of 30 days or better.
“This change will benefit up to 700 local businesses around Australia,” Mr Joyce said.
The committee's report also made recommendations aimed at addressing the gaps in regional areas around skills, training and apprenticeships – an issue that has been plaguing Gunnedah and the surrounding mining-strong regions for years.
Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce president Stacey Cooke gave evidence to the inquiry, and said her town’s businesses were losing staff to the mining sector.
“Employees are starting and completing their traineeships with regional businesses, then losing them to the mines afterwards,” Mrs Cooke said.
“Regional businesses are investing quite a lot of their time and money in to training these people, only to lose them anyway.”
The chamber’s vice president Mike Broekman, who owns a Namoi Valley Bricks, has first-hand experience losing staff to the mines.
“It takes us 18 months to get someone fully trained,” he said.