Senate debates

Tuesday, 4 March 2014


Western Australian Goldfields Miners Monument

7:21 pm

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It was my privilege last Saturday to join my colleague Rick Wilson, the member for O'Connor, in Kalgoorlie, along with some 350 eastern goldfields residents and guests for the unveiling of a monument to miners who have died while working on mines in the eastern goldfields since 1889. There were 1,491 names on the absolutely wonderful monument that has been built there with the assistance of the local community, the mining industry, the government and the Western Australian Museum. Of those 1,491miners, two were women and two, regrettably, were children, including a young 12-year-old, Michael Kinnane, who was killed in a rockfall while working beside his father at Kanowna in 1899. His father died some days later from the same incident. One can only wonder how the widow and other members of that family survived that.

It was also my privilege to be there with the recently retired minister for mines, and the longest serving member of the Western Australian parliament, the Hon. Norman Moore. What was significant on that wall was that there were three years, 2010 to 2012, where no deaths were recorded. That was as a result of Norman Moore coming into the ministry and taking the position that a risk management approach would be adopted for every individual mine site rather than a tick and flick by mines inspectors. He also made the requirement that the mines themselves, the mining companies, would be responsible for the costs associated with examination and inspection. Of course, the hope of all of us is that there never will be another name added to that wall.

I thank the Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Norman Moore's successor, the Hon. Bill Marmion, for a quote by a journalist, John Marshall, on the Goldfields more than 100 years ago. He wrote eloquently about the sacrifices of miners in the early days of the Goldfields and, with your permission, I will quote. These were his words: 'These names may not be emblazoned on the scroll of fame. Their brave deeds may be forgotten or remembered only by the loved ones who treasure and mourn their loss. But such have not lived in vain. The present generation and generations yet unborn will reap the benefit of their courage and enterprise and their example will not be lost.' Last Saturday, we were in a position to actually see emblazoned on that wall those names of the 1,491, going back to 1889.

The point should be made that representation on the Eastern Goldfields was not by Western Australians; it was largely by eastern staters, particularly Victorians, Senator McKenzie.

Senator Farrell interjecting

Indeed, I have to record that in 1898-99, Senator Farrell—through you, Mr Acting Deputy President—when the referendum was taken in Western Australia as to whether we would join the federation, the overwhelming response of coastal and agricultural people was, 'No, we won't join the federation.' It was an overwhelming number of Victorians who actually said, 'Well, if you don't join the federation we will form a state called the Western Australian Goldfields and we'll federate with the rest of the colonies.' The then Premier, Sir John Forrest, and Winthrop Hackett, who owned WA newspapers, then realised that, since the colony was nearly bankrupt, had the gold from the Goldfields been removed we would never, ever have joined the federation. That, of course, is the reason why today you do not see the name of Western Australia in the opening words of the Australian Constitution.

I want to recognise some names, if I may: the first chairman, James Donnelly, who some 11 years ago had the concept of building the wall; his co-chair over time, Danielle van Kampen; the current chair, John Bowler; and Doug Daws, who acted as the MC on the day. You could fairly say that Doug would probably be the MC of most events in Kalgoorlie. But I give particular credibility and recognition to a Ms Moya Sharp, who actually researched every single name. A website exists where if you click on the name it links back to the person themselves and the mining incident that occurred.

In the time I have remaining, I want to mention the emergency response competitions that are undertaken each year on the Goldfields, one for underground mining recovery and one for on-ground operations. They have their origins well over 100 years ago. It was a momentous event and, as I say, I hope we never see another name added.