A panel of Federal coalition and Labor politicians looking into the mining industry has unanimously called for sweeping changes that would blunt the power of large corporations over small businesses and employees.

The inquiry into resource sector support for regional businesses has made recommendations on employment law, business contracts and local content that would affect all sectors of the economy.

Resource industry groups are understood to be anxious about the recommendations.

Committee Chairman Barnaby Joyce said mining companies did the bare minimum for nearby towns and their payment terms allowed them to use suppliers as a bank. 

“It’s time for this practice to stop,” he said.

The committee members — three Nationals, two Liberals and three from Labor — reached a rare agreement on industrial relations in expressing concern that casual labour hire arrangements caused workers financial difficulty.

The panel called on the Federal Government to consider amending the Fair Work Act to prohibit the replacement of full-time direct employees with casuals. 

Supporters of this strengthening of employment law in favour of workers included Victorian Liberal Tim Wilson, who was the Policy Director for the right-wing, free-market Institute of Public Affairs for six years. Mr Wilson did not respond to a request for comment.

Small businesses suffering long waits for payments also concerned the committee, which concluded: “There is no doubt that large mining companies achieve a fiscal benefit from holding off payments”.

The committee recommended the Government legislate maximum payment times between businesses unless more mining companies signed up to a strengthened version of the existing voluntary supplier payment code.

Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco told the panel that BHP and Fortescue Metals Group had reduced payment terms to the benefit of local businesses.

The committee also recommended the Government consider outlawing unfair terms in contracts between businesses.

To ensure more money is spent where the mining occurs, the committee wants mining licences to include regional content requirements.

The report stated that 80 per cent of BHP’s procurement was with large contractors, but the company did not require them to demonstrate local spending or local procurement policies.

It called for the local content requirement to also apply to large contractors employed by resource companies. 

The committee was unconvinced by BHP’s argument that such measures would be unenforceable.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA Chief Executive Paul Everingham said his organisation would not support targets for local content as there were often problems with the capability, capacity and competitiveness of local suppliers.