Mike Brunker: ‘We need a mining community view in parliament’


Some of Queensland’s biggest coal mines are in the electorate of Burdekin that Mike Brunker is seeking to represent in Queensland’s Parliament. He wants the workers in those coal mines to have a strong voice in Brisbane.

Mike was born and bred in the Bowen Basin town of Collinsville and went straight from school to an apprenticeship then work as a diesel fitter in the mines.

Listen to an interview with Mike in the September episode of the CFMEU Mining and Energy podcast.

His political career started when there was a proposal to shut the council depot at Collinsville.

“Being a member of the Union, I ran for Council to make sure we stopped that. I was successful and then my mine closed in 1997. People said to me, ‘well, you know you did such a good job, why don’t you run for Mayor? So I did.

“Twenty-two years later now I’m still on Council and I had 15 years as the mayor of Bowen and the Whitsundays.”

Mike says mining towns are now suffering the ‘double whammy’ of 12-hour shifts, meaning there are fewer residents as workers drive in and fly in to work, and casualisation robbing people of job security.

“Casualisation is just absolutely ridiculous. Someone in a coal mine can be doing the same job on the same roster 12 months in advance but getting paid less.

“Basically casualisation is to get around the Union. If you’re a casual employee and you open your mouth about safety or conditions, you don’t get on the bus the next day.

“You are told you’re not needed today and back into town you go and it’s that blatant and that simple.”

Mike has thrown his support behind our Protect Casual Miners campaign which targets federal politicians.

“The Union’s done a great job and they’ve had a win and now the Federal Government’s going to come in and try and stop that because they see the ramifications. It’s a hard industry and these guys deserve equal pay for equal work.”

He says the Labor party includes diverse views but having people inside the tent arguing for mining regions is critical.

“It’s like Fred Brophy’s boxing tent. You can pay your money and get in the tent and shout and scream and nothing happens. Or you can get inside the ring and punch on. And for me, it’s getting inside the ring and punching and making sure that we get our fair share.

“We need a working class view and we need a mining community view.

“I’ve got some of the biggest mines in the Bowen Basin and three quarters of the GDP of Queensland comes out of this seat.

“The mining industry is carrying the nation at the moment. All of these job payments and all of these things being spent at the moment come from royalties from the mining industry. “I’m there to protect workers.”

The Queensland District has thrown its weight behind Mike’s campaign for the seat of Burdekin, while considering support for other candidates in the 31 October state election on a seat by seat basis.

In Toowoomba North, CFMEU members are campaigning against Labor over the Government’s failure to approve New Acland Stage 3.

“We will be taking to candidates about their views and commitments regarding mine safety, automation, support for mining and energy industries, training, investment in mining communities, workers’ rights and permanent jobs,” said Steve.

“But we are 100% confident that coal miners will be well represented by Mike, he has always been a fierce advocate for jobs and rights.”


Back to issue: September 2020