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Friday, September 9, 2011

Australia's Bright Future

According to a report by ANZ Bank and Consultants Port Jackson Partners, Australia has a bright future, riding on the back of the mining boom. They say a new economy will be formed based mainly on mining, and the benefits should flow through to everyone, if the government gets it right. Over the next twenty years, we will be capable of generating $480 billion dollars worth of exports which will create 750,000 jobs and the number of workers employed in the mining industry is expected to more than double, from 693,000 to 1.45 million.

Unemployment jumped from 5.1 to 5.3 per cent last month and strangely enough, the economy grew by a strong 1.2 per cent in the June quarter which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. ANZ have called the report 'Earth, Fire, Wind and Water' and forecast that the Australian dollar could go as high as $US1.25. ANZ CEO Mike Smith said "If Australia can expand capacity, export revenues from hard and soft commodities could reach half a trillion dollars in real terms by 2030 - and the scale of investment required is unprecedented." Most investment would focus on new mines but agriculture will also be important to feed the growing nations of the world.

ANZ Chief Economist said the government should forget the old concept of "The Lucky Country" and bring in more ambitious economic reforms. He wants the government to introduce new infrastructure - more school and hospital spending to attract workers in areas already facing skills shortages which will only get worse as mining investment grows. He expects there will be a shortage of labour in some areas and job losses in others, like the recent sacking of 1400 workers by BlueScope in Wollongong. BHP Billiton wrote to all those workers offering them work in Queensland and the Pilbara.

Labor mobility is a real problem for mining companies who have to rely on a "fly-in, fly-out" workforce and it makes perfect sense to get families to move the these remote areas permanently. It's up to governments to make life more appealing to ambitious families who will pull up stumps from wherever they live and move to Gladstone or the northwest of WA to make their fortune. But it comes at a price - it's stinking hot. I found this ad for dump truck drivers wanted in WA and it's interesting to see how they tackle the scorching heat problem.

Articulated dump trucks operate in Australian mines and if you obtain a position, you are referred to as a "dump truck driver". It's a very popular job as you don't have to have a high level of fitness and you are out of the harsh conditions that the desert provides which are typically where the mining is taking place. We are talking up to 55 degrees celcius in summer. From around September, the hot, dry weather can start to get annoying, right up to March. The heat in Western Australia is described as a very "dry heat", so if you are working outside and can find shade, you can have a break from the heat. On the East Coast of Australia, it's more a tropical type of heat with high humidity and it hits you even if you are standing in the shade.