Doubts over WA mining sex pest register

·2-min read

Western Australia's government has all but ruled out creating its own register of sexual offenders in the mining industry, saying it should fall to companies.

A state parliamentary inquiry earlier this year found the multi-billion dollar industry had failed to protect women from predatory behaviour.

The inquiry, launched after victims detailed claims of sexual assaults at major WA mines, found women had faced targeted violence, stalking, grooming and threats to their livelihoods.

It recommended the industry explore options for a register of sexual offenders to prevent perpetrators moving between sites.

Mines Minister Bill Johnston said the government supported all of the recommendations at least in principle.

But he said the proposed register was a matter for industry and one that would be problematic for the government to pursue, because perpetrators would be able to take their cases to the State Administrative Tribunal.

"Any allegations would have to be dealt with through natural justice. That means that the perpetrator would have rights to challenge the issue that was being raised," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"I'm not certain that if government was to do it, that would actually achieve what the committee has recommended.

"It's an important recommendation and we're looking to see what industry does in response. But there are obvious legal challenges to moving down that pathway that would make the register ineffective."

The government will enforce minimum safety standards at mining camps, fund a legal service for victims and strengthen WorkSafe investigations into incidents.

It has already promised to reform workplace sexual harassment laws to make them less onerous for complainants.

Women's Interests Minister Simone McGurk said mining companies need to fix their culture if they want to attract more female staff.

"We're in a vicious cycle in the mining industry. Women are not attracted to work in that industry, let alone stay in that industry because of the way that they're treated," she said.

"That actually has to stop. We need more women working in that industry and we need those women who are working in that industry to be treated with respect."

Pilbara mining giants Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue Metals Group were among the companies to publicly front the inquiry.

All three confirmed they had sacked workers over assaults and harassment.

They have since rolled out safety measures including tougher alcohol limits, enhanced reporting mechanisms and better CCTV and lighting.

WA's Chamber of Minerals and Energy welcomed the government's response, saying many of the proposed improvements were already in progress.