Minister Shorten interview on the Today Show


SUBJECTS: Ballarat mine collapse

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: The race is on right now to free one miner still trapped underground following the collapse of a gold mine in regional Victoria. A second worker who was rescued last night is currently fighting for life in hospital. For more, let's bring in Bill Shorten, who worked as secretary of the Australian Workers Union during the Beaconsfield mine disaster and also the Ballarat Mayor. Bill to you first up, this all brings back some tough memories, doesn't it, of Beaconsfield? What have you heard this morning from the ground?

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT SERVICES AND THE NDIS: Well, first of all, my thoughts are with the men who were on the shift yesterday afternoon. They will be shocked; they will be grieving. And my thoughts are also with the rescuers who no doubt as we speak, are doing their absolute best to find their final missing workmate. So that's what I think. I think about the people involved there. My old union, the Australian Workers Union, has been present since late yesterday afternoon. Apparently, the emergency warnings and the call for emergency services, I should say, went out sometime just before 5 p.m. I've spoken to the secretary of the union, Ronnie Hayden, who's in Ballarat as we speak. I think you're talking to him later this morning. The men are shocked. They're grieving. The union is reaching out to them and will no doubt be talking to them further in coming days. I understand there's a meeting with WorkSafe officials in the coming next couple of hours as well.

STEFANOVIC: All right. I'll get on to that in just a second. But we know the conditions. They're pretty tough, aren't they? It's painstaking work working through that rubble.

SHORTEN: Well, yeah, I'll never forget, one of the finest moments of my life was when I was in front of the mine superintendents sort of office in Beaconsfield, and some of the authorities wanted to assume that the missing miners were dead. And I remember these gritty underground miners are saying until we can find the bodies, it's a rescue, not a recovery. The conditions will be very volatile. I can't verify, but I'm told that the men were about three kilometres into the mine. Beaconsfield was a shaft mine where you go down a giant sort of lift? This is a drive in mine, in parts. So, there'll be very – we don't know what's caused the rockfall, this catastrophic rockfall. A lot a lot of questions to be answered, but it'll be very hazardous circumstances. Which means that the men doing the rescuing are brave. They mightn't see themselves as brave. They'll just see themselves as looking out for their workmate. But they're brave.

STEFANOVIC: There is, that's for sure. Um, it's such a tough job, isn't it? And look, that that operation is still underway. It is early days to look at the safety of mine and practices. But it is not the first collapse at this mine. 27 miners were trapped in 2007, and there was a collapse as recent as 2021. How do you approach that?

SHORTEN: Well, I know that the AWU will be incredibly diligent. I'm not sure what morale is like. I think for the purposes of today, the focus has to be on the rescue of the missing workmate. There will no doubt be all sorts of investigations. Our thoughts are also with the young, injured man at The Alfred. The Alfred's one of the best hospitals in the world. So, he's getting the best care possible, which is great. There will be all sorts of enquiries to go through this. And one thing's for sure, we will hear from the men who worked in that mine. The mine had been, it's a matter of record that the mine had been in administration. And new management's come in very early this year. As I understand it, the men were doing a form of mining called air leg mining. But I think the big priority today is the psychology of the survivors and the rescuers attempts to get to the final missing man, miner.

STEFANOVIC: And no doubt the families, the miners and the whole community will want some answers at some point. Bill. Thank you. Let's bring in the Ballarat mayor now. Des Hudson. Des, tough night for you all. How's the community holding up?

DES HUDSON, MAYOR OF BALLARAT: Yeah, thanks, Karl. As I've said over the last little while, we have a very resilient community, a community that certainly regularly shows empathy for other members of our community when they're going through a tough time. And that's what those that are involved in the mine site are absolutely in at the moment. And certainly, all our thoughts and prayers and best wishes go to that miner that is still trapped, and to the emergency services that will be working feverishly to try and be able to extract the miner as quickly as possible and bring him to the surface. But we also lend our thoughts to that particular miner who is in The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne with significant injuries. And we hope and pray that there can be a speedy recovery for him, but also the family of everyone who is involved, of both the trapped miner, the miner that is now in hospital and others that will be having an anxious time while the rest of the rescue unfolds. And hopefully we can get a positive outcome.

STEFANOVIC: A couple of families in deep trauma and also pain this morning. We appreciate you both being on. Thank you.