WA Premier Mark McGowan had a frog in his throat when asked about Rio Tinto signing onto the Karratha Local Jobs portal on his recent visit to the Pilbara.

Mr McGowan was on a visit to the mining giant’s Paraburdoo mine late last month when asked if Rio would join Woodside on the portal, which offers jobs in Karratha to residents and people who want to become residents before going out to fly-in, fly-out workers.

“I don’t know the answer to that but I will certainly talk to the company about it,” he said.

When questioned further as to whether he would ask Rio Tinto chief executive Chris Salisbury, who was standing next to him, about joining the portal, Mr McGowan was silent before responding with “anything else”.

WA Nationals deputy leader Jacqui Boydell took a swipe at the portal in State Parliament before the winter break, claiming it could lure staff away from small business to high-paying resources jobs.

“Creating that portal is saying to the bartender at Blanche Bar, ‘you put your name down on this portal and we’ll take you away from that small business provider’,” she said.

“It is a ridiculous argument to suggest that the portal is going to create more local jobs because there is no-one without a job.

“It is mind-blowing that anybody thinks this is a good idea, unless it is linked to the long-term outcomes of Woodside to transition out of that transient workforce accommodation and enable its workers to live locally.”

Creating a local jobs portal was a key requirement for Woodside to gain the State Government’s approval to press ahead with the Bay Village camp in Karratha.