Home' Scoop : Scoop 52 Winter 2010 Contents 76 scoop WINTER 2010
living for the state as a whole. But it s not evenly
distributed... those who aren t getting higher pay
pay the costs but don t get the benefits immediately
-- ultimately they might.
"The real problem is that there is not much
the government can do about it."
Professor Kenyon points out that long-term
planning for a mining economy is extremely
difficult because of the inherent volatility of
commodities markets. In the longer term a
sustained boom will bring structural reform where
workers are re-skilled and trained to move into
industries with highest demand, he says.
But when an economy puts all its eggs in one
basket, it also risks developing "Dutch disease".
Industries that can t attract investment or labour
languish. Exporters like agriculture and tourism
are hit hard by a strong dollar.
And these industries are important. As
WAFarmers Director of Policy, Alan Hill, says:
"While it s obvious that mining will and should
play an important part in the state for many years
to come, agriculture remains the only renewable
industry that has the prospect of feeding a rapidly
growing world population."
Some economists are calling for a federal
industry policy, otherwise Australia will be
little more than a quarry... a quarry that is very
vulnerable to the fortunes of China and India and
the worldwide supply of commodities.
As long as we re digging it up and shipping it
out, we d better get ready for ongoing squabbles
about who ll benefit from selling off our dirt.
To ensure that it gets the maximum benefit
from mining, the State Government will scrap
royalties concessions for Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton,
meaning their joint iron-ore venture will bring an
extra $300 million a year into treasury. (The state
doesn t get royalty payments from oil and gas.)
Meanwhile, the Federal Government plans to
tax the "super profits" of big mining companies,
promising to use the money this creates to bring
wealth to all in the form of higher payments for
superannuation, infrastructure spending and
lower company tax.
People such as Aboriginal elder Ted Wilkes fear
this "let s get in there and dig it up" mentality is
terribly short-term thinking.
"Our children and grandchildren will look
back and say, What did you do? We should be
saving some stuff for our children."
With business investment kicking in, the CCI has
warned that labour shortages will soon be one of
our biggest challenges. More than a quarter of WA
businesses already report finding labour "scarce".
The Gorgon gas project will create 10,000
construction jobs and 3500 ongoing jobs. Low-
skilled workers on this and other projects in the
region get as much as $150,000 a year while
tradies will earn more than $160,000 annually.
Added to this is the competition for labour from
big new LNG projects in Queensland and Papua
New Guinea and the Oakajee port project.
Master Builders Association construction
manager Kim Richardson says that while these
projects will have a big effect on other commercial
and residential construction projects, in the short
term at least, we shouldn t experience the extent of
problems we had three years ago because many large
private-sector commercial jobs will end soon. The
GFC means fewer big commercial projects are set
to start in the next few years.
But builders are already reporting difficulty
getting highly experienced, skilled workers such
as site supervisors, specialised administration staff,
safety officers and some tradespeople.
And paying more is not always the answer to
having building jobs run smoothly. Kim says
some sub-contractors, realising they could pay
their bills by only working three days a week at
a higher rate, do just that.
The CCI estimates that WA will need 400,000
workers over the next seven years. Based on
current population trends, and assuming no
increase in immigration, we will fall 150,000
short. The Chamber of Minerals and Energy
estimates the state will require another 38,000
workers in the resources sector alone by 2012.
Both are working with the State Government to
form a migration strategy for WA, to identify the
areas of greatest need and to lobby the Federal
Government, which recently appointed a new
Minister for Population, to take into account
WA s specific requirements.
Graham Bradley from the Business Council
of Australia says that while there are fears a big
population increase will bring a decrease in
our standard of living, he believes without the
extra people standards will drop. We need a
bigger workforce to get big projects going and
to support a population whose average age is
A recent Skills Australia report predicted a
staggering 9.2 million job openings across the
country in the next 15 years, forming an inevitable
conclusion that we ll need bring in workers, at
least on temporary visas, to do the work.
We may have to consider a scenario where
we become like many Middle Eastern countries,
with a large population of guest workers
serving the oil sheiks.
We would become the wealthy white slugs of
Asia. Unwilling to accept low wages for menial
tasks, we d employ people from poorer countries
to do them for us, content in the knowledge that
however little we paid them, it would be much
more than they would be earning back home.
We have long been used to the idea of buying
goods produced in the sweatshops of Asia, but
would we adapt so easily to having immigrant
workers doing our ironing, sweeping our streets or
working in our mines?
Here s an alternative: what if we were the
ones doing the menial tasks?
The Skills Australia report also showed that
almost half the working-age population -- 4.7
million people -- has poor literacy and numeracy
and 4.3 million have no post-school qualifications,
meaning many of us are in no position to benefit
from the opportunities a boom might present.
Employment Minister Julia Gillard has said
Australia faces the prospect of "an over-reliance
on imported skilled labour but enduring localised
unemployment", a scenario that is "absolutely not
in Australia s best interest".
While governments -- both state and federal
-- have pledged more money for education and
training, temporary workers may reduce the
economic incentives for businesses to provide
proper training to locals. Business has been under
fire for not putting enough money into training
• Mining stock holders
• Building labourers -- see Jobs for the Boys
• Occupational Health and Safety officers
and safety gear providers
• Recruitment firms and talent
• Training providers
• Health/fitness services to busy people
• Wealth management services
• Luxury goods (The cashed-up bogan is back!)
• IR specialists (expect trouble)
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