Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has labelled BHP Billiton's call for 170,000 workers as an attempt by the multinational to intimidate the federal government into designing job policies that suit the mining industry at the expense of NSW and other states suffering from mining boom related pressures ("We'll need 170,000 workers, says BHP", SMH p 1 today).
"Australia urgently needs more skilled workers, but this should not be limited to the needs of mining companies," Senator Rhiannon said.
"The record dollar, largely due to the mining boom, is driving NSW manufacturers out of business, as the imports they compete with become cheaper while their own exports become more expensive.
"These trends highlights why the federal government should not allow mining giants to dictate on future workforce needs.
"BHP's call for more mining-related university and training courses is misguided.
"The government should instead back more programs to develop training in renewable energy delivery and other paths to green the economy.
"This is an opportunity for the government to link its commitment to a carbon constrained economy with the skill development programs that will be critical to produce that outcome.
"We need industry plans that are developed according to the needs of different regions so we avoid a one size fits all approach.
"The government should take a lead in ensuring skilled workers are coming through for all industries.
"This can be best achieved by ensuring that TAFE as the training arm of government is adequately funded so it can work in partnership with industries and communities.
"The development of a skilled workforce is one of the important issues facing Australia. In achieving this one industry should not be allowed to dominate.
"This outlandish demand from BHP gives further wait to the Greens call for an inquiry into manufacturing in order to identify opportunities and threats for this sector, ways to encourage innovation and to identify training needs," Ms Rhiannon said.