'Coal miners stick together and we bleed black'

Jo-Ann Miller is standing up for coalminers and their families
Jo-Ann Miller is standing up for coalminers and their families Courier Mail

WE BLEED black.

That is what Bundamba MP and Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis Select Committee chair Jo-Ann Miller said about coalminers and their families in a forthright speech to parliament today.

Ms Miller moved that the the House take note of report No. 1 of the Committee, titled Inquiry into the re-identification of coal workers' pneumoconiosis in Queensland-interim report.

Ms Miller started off by telling the parliament that coalminers are a tough breed.

"As a coalminer's daughter and granddaughter, I know this well," she said.

"We stick together and, as we say, we do not bleed red; we bleed black.

"Unfortunately, that is so true of black lung disease.

"This inquiry has seen some of the toughest and bravest of coalminers reduced to tears and we as the Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis Select Committee, our staff and our Hansard reporters have cried with them."

Ms Miller placed on record a post from Andrew Vickers, the national secretary of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division, from the Miners at the Coal Face Facebook page. She said the post had been "fully endorsed by Steve Smyth of the Queensland division of the mining and energy part of the CFMEU."

In his post Mr Vickers welcomed "an excellent interim report" while making some key points.

"It is also clear that the more detailed report will incorporate recommendations aimed at providing redress to the failings identified," Mr Vickers wrote.

" The `Statement of Reservation' over the names of committee members Kelly and Crawford is misguided and ill conceived however.

"While no-one questions the sincerity of Minister Lynham, everybody knows Ministers do not draft legislation, that will be the responsibility of bureaucrats within the Minister's Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

"That is the same department that the committee itself has slammed for systemic failures that has led to 20 miners being afflicted with this insidious disease.

"That cannot be allowed to happen and Parliament must reject this notion and adopt the Committee's majority recommendation."

After Ms Miller said the committee had received almost 50 submissions, and counting.

"We have heard hundreds of hours of testimony and obtained more than 10,000 documents, all of which combine to paint an illuminating and often disturbing picture," she said.

" None of this evidence has affected us more than those workers who have been affected by black lung.

"There is one thing that I wanted to make clear in this parliament today: the fact about the families and the families' involvement of coalminers.

"This parliament needs to understand that I and many other people come from generations of coalmining families and we breed our own coalminers because it is in our blood-like the Vickers family whose father was a miner and with numerous relatives in coal, like Kim Smyth who spoke about her husband and her family and her sisters who are all married to coalminers, and there are many more examples like that.

"Being a coalminer is not just a job to us. It is not just like going to work; it is carrying on a generational heritage of what our families do.

"We cut coal. We look after each other and we rely on each other for our very lives, and that is what makes coalminers different to other people, to any other worker. I want that understood in this parliament.

"Our generational history is very important. It is our families. It is what we do. It is what we breed and what we will take on to future generations."

Ms Miller then spoke of the hardships that had befallen miners.

"Percy Verrall is in constant chest pain and struggles to walk," she said.

"His wife, who is his carer who now looks after him, is now ill herself.

"Then there was the evidence that we heard from Chris Byron yesterday.

"He has caught pneumonia more than 50 times in the last 10 years and every day he fears that that could be his last day.

"Then there is Steve Mellor, who is victim No. 10, as he calls it.

"Do members know how he knew he had black lung? It was published in the local paper, the Daily Mercury, in Mackay.

"No-one had contacted him to tell him. It took four years for him to be informed that his 2012 chest X-ray showed signs of simple CWP. It is not on. We are not having it, and the industry is not having it either."

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