An open letter from CFMEU WA State Secretary Mick Buchan regarding Chevron Barrow Island

WA State Secretary Mick Buchan

The venting of carcinogenic toxins and heavy metals by Chevron at Barrow Island in defiance of their environmental approvals is a disgraceful indictment on our State and Federal governments.

In an attempt to downplay the significance of this issue, Premier McGowan stated “it’s an important component of their original approval … that the carbon be re-injected underground as soon as possible.”

I don’t agree with this statement. The requirement was, and has always been, that sequestration already be operational and the workforce not be exposed to this pollution.

The falsehood is based on the idea that Chevron have been doing everything they can to get the system operational. They haven’t. They just put it aside as not being a priority. And they did so knowing full well that our current State and Federal Governments will never hold them to account. They figure they’re too big to fail, and so they’re too arrogant to care.

Why are the rules so different for working class people?

Can you imagine if a company ignored their environmental obligations and were venting mercury at a school, or in a shopping centre, or in a government office building? Can you imagine if a company was releasing cancer causing toxins at your local park or in your suburb?

The idea that companies have any less responsibility to the men and women who earn their wage through manual labour is a corrosive lie that lets everyone involved sidestep their responsibility to provide a safe workplace.

Next Monday I’ll be standing opposite Parliament House with representatives of the Union Movement, Government and Industry as we observe International Workers’ Memorial Day. I’ll watch members of our State Government lay wreaths in commemoration of the thousands of men and women who died due to the obscene failures and indifference of the Wittenoon asbestos mine and a host of other shameful failures by government and industry to protect the lives and dignity of workers.

I’ll listen to all of them talk about the sad indictment it is on all of us. I’ll hear every single one of them preach about how we can never let it happen again.

And yet here we are.

How have we let ourselves come to the point where multinational corporations can just choose to not comply with their requirements and then continue to operate without any consequence? People talk about threats to our sovereignty. This, right here, is the real threat to our sovereignty.

Our state is being taken for a ride by a tax avoiding multinational corporation. And it’s being done with the complicity of our own Government.

It’s workers and their families who will pay the price for breathing the toxic shit Chevron are releasing. And it’s every West Australian taxpayer who will foot the bill for the clean-up when Chevron have packed up and run off with all the profits of our natural resources.

We need to change the rules that let these companies get away with ignoring their obligation to the people of our state.

In solidarity with every West Australian worker and their families,

Mick Buchan
State Secretary
CFMEU Western Australia


  1. Mc Gowan hang your head in shame but then again you can’t as the strings are being pulled by your puppeteer

  2. Keep going Mick no point in sending workers home if they are sick and have their working life cause their deaths.

  3. Its time that governments listened to the workers representatives and took action aginst these companies both Australian and Internationals in the strongest of actions .
    Fines for breaches are minimal , Inspectorates arnt strong enough and in a lot of cases are to close to these companies and those that arnt don’t have the full backing of their departmental bosses ,so the governments need to look to taking stronger actions against these people and the cooperate bodies with penalties that fit the crime.
    Fines should be at least quadrupled in the first instance and for the second offence then then they should be doubled and the management be stood down through an act of parliament for 6 months and the third is any internationals be kicked out of Australia with a fine no less than the second offence and a similar fine for the management and a suspension of 5 years for individual management for any breaches .
    This then may show some leadership by the Governments that they are dinkum about bringing some order into the business thinking on health and safety front .

    To much emphasis on the workers and nothing on the bosses and its time for the tables to be turned


  4. Gday Mick, what are the details/times for the International Workers Memorial Day event? I’ll try to get there to support, along with Kevin and Lea if they are able.

  5. Well said Mick and everyone should be behind you expressing their absolute disgust at our state and federal governments complicity in this matter… These bastards get away with murder when they knowingly put workers lives at risk by flaunting any legislated requirement. It’s time to introduce mandatory gaol time for anyone contravening legislation or refusing to meet their obligations to their workers ?

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