Australia to push miners to set up register of sex offenders
Western Australia released a report on Thursday that detailed cases of “horrifying” and “appalling” behavior against women working in the state’s mining sector. Resources Minister Madeleine King said the nation will now push its mining industry to set up a register of sexual harassment perpetrators to help rein in abuse.
The release of the report followed a year-long investigation into concerns about a culture of sexism and bullying that fueled public anger about workplace conditions last year, leading to what has been called Australia’s MeToo moment.
Australia accounts for about half of the world’s iron ore exports and women have long complained of sexual harassment in so-called “fly in, fly out” mining camps, temporary accommodation set up at remote mines to house workers, Reuters reported.
“Any case of sexual harassment is one too many,” said King in a statement, which added that the federal government would work with Western Australia to support all 24 recommendations in the report.
“The Australian Government stands ready to help the resources sector stamp out sexual harassment, which has no place in the modern workplace,” she added.
Examples cited in the report included stalking, texting of lewd material, requests for sexual favours in return for a permanent job and sexual assaults.
Individuals who spoke to the committee said perpetrators of serious harassment simply changed work sites or were employed with a different company, the report said.
Its 24 recommendations included having the industry consider an offender register or other options “which could operate effectively and fairly to prevent habitual sexual harassment offenders continuing to be re-employed.”
It also recommended establishing a forum to document victims’ historical experiences, and explore opportunities for redress, such as formal apologies and compensation. And it recommended changing laws to put the onus on companies to keep a harassment-free workplace, rather than on individuals to speak up.
Other proposals related to improved reporting of harassment, better training for workers and managers, improved accommodation and security at mine camps as well as restrictions on drinking.
Major global miners including BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue (FMG.AX) made submissions to the inquiry, most of them acknowledging that sexual harassment is rife at mining camps in Western Australia, and promising reforms.
But bullying and abuse have continued in the sector over the past 18 months.
Rio said in a statement that it would closely study the recommendations contained in the report. BHP acknowledged the report and said it was committed to creating a workplace that is safe, respectful and inclusive at all times.
Fortescue Metals Group Chief Executive Elizabeth Gaines said: "We acknowledge that some inappropriate behavior still occurs and in line with our zero-tolerance approach to harassment, bullying, discrimination and intimidation, we will continue to encourage our team members to call out inappropriate behavior..."
Rio published its own report in February which found that nearly 30 percent of women had experienced sexual harassment at work, with 21 women reporting actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.