Royal Flying Doctor boss to head WA’s influential mining and gas lobby

Western Australia’s resource sector has chosen WA Royal Flying Doctor chief executive Rebecca Tomkinson to lead the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA and replace political powerbroker Paul Everingham.

Tomkinson listed a tight labour market, the treatment of women at work and pursuing the opportunities of decarbonisation as areas she would focus on.

We’re all workforce challenged, Tomkinson said of the sector that is planning projects worth $156 billion but is already troubled by a skills shortage and attracting people to fill vacancies.

Her first major challenge will be responding to the WA parliamentary inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the fly-in fly-out mining industry that will be tabled in late June.

Evidence given to the inquiry in 2021 rocked the industry’s reputation as an employer.

Rio Tinto, the state’s largest iron ore miner, later launched its own inquiry and said it was shamed by the sexual harassment, bullying and racism found on its work sites. There is no evidence that Rio Tinto’s workplaces are worse than other miners.

Industry has absolutely shown its commitment to be able to put in place the recommendations as they come out of that inquiry, Tomkinson said.

CME president Fiona Hick, who is also Woodside executive vice president operations, said Tomkinson’s background in the not-for-profit sector and understanding of regional areas made her well-suited to a role that required dealing with numerous stakeholders.

Hick said Everingham had made the CME more outward-focussed in his four years at the helm and that would continue under Tomkinson.

Everingham was at the centre of the state government’s response to COVID-19, regularly appearing alongside Premier Mark McGowan at media conferences when the pandemic first hit the state in early 2020.

Unlike Tomkinson’s not-for profit background, Everingham has been at the centre of conservative politics and big business lobbying in WA for two decades.

After a stint with the Commonwealth Treasury in Canberra he came to Perth in 2003 to run the state branch of the Liberal Party for three years then went on to found influential lobbying firm GRA Everingham.

Tomkinson said the industry was moving towards net-zero emissions and alignment with the Paris Agreement.

Industrial emissions are likely to feature strongly in Tomkinson’s tenure with the CME as WA is the only state with rising greenhouse gas emissions and massive reductions are required to achieve the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to close to 1. 5 degrees.

Tomkinson, who is the first female chief executive in the CME’s 122 years, said the upside for the sector was rising demand for hydrogen and critical minerals needed for industry to decarbonise.

The world is looking to us to deliver those resources in a sustainable way, and I’m really looking forward to partnering with industry to tell that story, she said.

Everingham finishes at the CME at the end of May and policy director Rob Carruthers will be acting chief executive until Tomkinson starts in a few months.

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