Macken Sense: Jobs

When I was a kid in primary school we had a teacher who used to give every week a theme, like Book Week, or Family Week, Animal Week and of course Religious Martyr Week – it was a Catholic thing. If she were still around today she would have to have made this week Job Week because that was the only story around.

From last Friday’s announcement that mining heiress, Gina Rinehart, would get her wish to bring in up to 1715 foreign construction workers for her Roy Hill iron ore project because it was so huge and there would not be enough Australian workers to build it; to Tuesday’s announcement that GVK and Gina Rinehart had  got the nod from the Queensland Co-ordinator General to build their 30 mtpa (30 million tonne) Alpha mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. The Alpha mine is also expected to rely almost solely on a combination of fly in fly out and foreign workers.

Then there was the other jobs story doing the rounds – the one about the Hastie Group and how up to 2,700 Australians may lose their jobs. While it’s early days in this financial disaster it looks like the combination of falsified accounts (fraud) and the high Australian dollar made the company unviable. This announcement had come on the heels of that other announcement by Qantas saying it would slash 535 engineering positions. And then the week finished with Fairfax announcing it would axe nearly 70 editorial positions from the Illawarra Mercury and Newcastle Herald.

Yes indeed there were thousands of words written and many hours of people talking about these jobs from almost every perspective, except one.

In all the commentary and analysis I could not find anyone talking about the nature of the jobs being destroyed and the nature of the jobs being created. It was almost as if all jobs were considered of equal in value give or take a few hundred thousand.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Some jobs create multiple goods for the worker, their family, their community, environment and historical legacy. Some jobs create a wage and multiple negatives for the worker, their family, their community, their environment and their historical legacy.

Here’s how it works in today’s Australia.

According to Senior Treasury official, Dr. David Gruen, Executive Director of the Macro Economic Group, the mining boom is not creating new jobs, but rather seeing the transfer of jobs in manufacturing to mining. At Senate estimates in February 2012 he said; “In a well-functioning economy like ours, with unemployment close to its lowest sustainable rate, it is not the case that individual industries are creating jobs, they are simply re-distributing them… there really isn’t a multiplier.”

According to Mr Clive Palmer, his mine China First will:

•  increase the nation’s annual coal exports by $4.6 billion, or one quarter

•  contribute an extra $710 million a year to federal government revenue

•  contribute an extra $365 million to the Queensland government

On the other side of the ledger the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the same China First mine states the mine will also ensure:

•  3,000 jobs are lost across Queensland and Australia, particularly in manufacturing, agriculture and tourism.

•  $1.2 billion of manufacturing activity will be lost.

•  Inflation will rise.

•  Small and medium sized businesses will be hit with higher bills for payroll and rent. This will result in some of them shutting down.

•  Housing affordability will decline for those who are not employed in the new mine.

•  Wealth will become less evenly distributed, with most of the benefits accruing to those employed in the China First mine.

•  The mine will hurt agriculture because it will occupy 55,000 hectares of grazing land.

Apart from manufacturing, the tourism industry is also seriously threatened by this coal expansion on a number of fronts including; the high dollar driving away overseas tourism, increased shipping and massive industrial port developments along the Great Barrier Reef and worsening acidification of the ocean as a result of climate change. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show that in May 2011 total mining employment was 217,100 in a workforce of over 11 million – representing only around 1.9%. This compares to around 500,000 jobs in tourism (4.5% of the workforce).

The mining boom is, by its own admission, destroying jobs in manufacturing and tourism and creating jobs in mining, but how do the jobs compare?

Jobs in manufacturing are traditionally;

•  Stable, full-time work,

•  have rosters that traditionally allow for a two day weekend and four weeks leave per year

•  begin with entry level skill levels that grow over time through both on the job training and apprenticeships

•  are located within the community in large urban areas

•  provide a diversity of employment opportunities and businesses and a more resilient economy

•  provide employment opportunities for men and women across all ages

Jobs in the Queensland mining boom are increasingly;

•  fly in fly out and foreign work visas (Enterprise Migration Agreement)

•  have 12 hour rosters on for 21 days and seven days off

•  have non-transferable skills

•  are for men aged between 20 and 35 years of age

•  are seen as alienating and stressful

•  are not always wanted by the communities that host them

Implicit in the mining companies EIS is the assumption that one job is an equivalent to another. Remember we are no longer talking about the mining jobs that have underpinned the economies of the Hunter, Illawarra and the La Trobe Valley, the mining boom is creating a totally transforming the way mining jobs are managed.

What they fail to account for is the increased social cost of losing stable jobs in tourism and manufacturing to the high paying but socially alienating jobs in mining. These costs are born by the miners themselves and their families.

Not all jobs are of equal value. Despite the high wages offered in the development of these mega mine projects, the cost borne by the blokes who work there, their families and the broader community is high. These projects hollow out economies and make who towns and economies vulnerable to the whims of the international markets.

Alternatively the jobs in manufacturing; the construction jobs, machinists, the sparkies, chippies and brickies, and the women and men who create our great tourist industry are jobs that drive diversity and resilience in the economy, they give workers a secure income, work hours and community they could put down roots in.

These are the jobs that enable dads to put in a few hours in the kids’ reading classes, mums to help in the school tuck shop and go to creating not just a workforce but more importantly a community.

We need to get smart about jobs that matter to all of us, not just a few of us.

Macken Sense is a weekly metabolic breakdown of media and green events by our astute commentator, Julie Macken. Follow Julie Macken on Twitter @juliemacken.

  • Steve

    In an earlier post you made a point about looking at the numbers put forward by vested interests with a skeptical eye … in this post you make a big deal about the effect the mine will have on grazing in Queensland as it will occupy 55,000 hectares … that’s 550 square kilometers … which does sound like a big area … no doubt the number refers to the total extent of the mining lease and presumably the hole in the ground won’t be that big all of the time ….

    In any case, a 2011 Queensland government report tells me that:

    “More than 80 per cent of Queensland’s total area of 1 727 000 square kilometres is used for grazing on lands, extending from humid tropical areas to arid western rangelands.”

    That suggests there are 1,381,600 square kilometers of grazing land in Qld. That’s 138,160,000 hectares.

    Expressed as a decimal fraction, the 55,000 hectares taken up by the mining lease is only 0.00039 of the available grazing land in Queensland …


    Hardly a major impact, which suggests the point is being exagerated.

    Exaggeration is endemic in the anti-fossil fuel and Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming campaign. Later you state:

    “… and worsening acidification of the ocean as a result of climate change.”

    Oh, dear.

    I refer you and your evidence seeking readers to the following peer reviewed research that shows the misnamed ‘acidification’ problem is yet another alarmist exaggeration.

    Recall that this particular brand of fear mongering is all about the pH of the ocean becoming less ‘basic’ and the effect this may have on the calcification rates of corals and thus the wholesale destruction of reefs and the food chain.

    Cooper et al 2012 in a paper titled: “Growth of Western Australian corals in the Anthropocene” chose a site in WA which has apparently suffered high temperature increases and found the following:

    “Cooper et al. report that at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands – where a relatively large sea surface temperature (SST) increase had occurred (0.10°C/decade) – calcification rates rose by 23.5%, and that at Coral Bay and Tantabiddi, SST increases of 0.8 and 0.6°C/decade were associated with 8.7 and 4.9% increases in decadal calcification rates, respectively, while smaller and non-significant positive trends in calcification rates were apparent at Clerke and Imperieuse Reefs, where the increase in SST was only 0.2°C/decade.”

    In any case, the positive impact of warmer sea temperatures on coral growth have been known for awhile now. In a 2000 peer reviewed paper Lough and Barnes, in a peer reviewed paper titled; ‘Environmental controls on growth of the massive coral Porites published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology found:

    “This analysis revealed that the GBR calcification data were linearly related to the average annual SST data, such that “a 1°C rise in average annual SST increased average annual calcification by 0.39 g cm-2 year-1.”

    So coral actually grows better under enriched CO2 and warmer water conditions.

    This was again confirmed in 2009:

    “In a striking finding that raises new questions about carbon dioxide’s (CO2) impact on marine life, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists report that some shell-building creatures — such as crabs, shrimp and lobsters — unexpectedly build more shell when exposed to ocean acidification caused by elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).”

    So, calcification rates are increasing despite the fact that there is supposedly more CO2 in the water.

    So, Julie, there’s no reason to fear. Another question is, can the GBR adapt to changing conditions? In a 2007 peer reviewed paper titled, “Reef recovery 20 years after the 1982-1983 El Niño massive mortality” published in the journal Marine Biology, Gusman and Cortes studied:

    “… coral reefs of the eastern Pacific Ocean that had “suffered unprecedented mass mortality at a regional scale as a consequence of the anomalous sea warming during the 1982-1983 El Niño.” At Cocos Island, in particular, they found in a survey of three representative reefs (which they conducted in 1987) that the remaining live coral cover was only 3% of what it had been prior to the occurrence of the great 1982-1983 El Niño (Guzman and Cortes, 1992); and based on this finding and the similar observations of other scientists at other reefs, they predicted that “the recovery of the reefs’ framework would take centuries, and recovery of live coral cover, decades.”

    But what did they find?

    “Just 15 years later, however, they found that the mean live coral cover had increased nearly five-fold — from 2.99% in 1987 to 14.87% in 2002 — at the three sites studied during both periods, while the mean live coral cover of all five sites studied in 2002 was 22.7%. In addition, they found that “most new recruits and adults belonged to the main reef building species from pre-1982 ENSO, Porites lobata, suggesting that a disturbance as outstanding as [the 1982-1983] El Niño was not sufficient to change the role or composition of the dominant species.”
    The most interesting aspect of the study, however, was the fact that a second major El Niño occurred between the two assessment periods; and Guzman and Cortes state that “the 1997-1998 warming event around Cocos Island was more intense than all previous El Niño events,” noting that temperature anomalies “above 2°C lasted 4 months in 1997-1998 compared to 1 month in 1982-83.” Nevertheless, they determined that “the coral communities suffered a lower and more selective mortality in 1997-1998”

    This supports an earlier study of the Great Barrier Reef. In 2001, Osborne et al, in a study titled, ‘Disturbance and the Dynamics of Coral Cover on the Great Barrier Reef (1995–2009)’ found:

    “Monitoring data collected annually from fixed sites at 47 reefs across 1300 km of the GBR indicate that overall regional coral cover was stable (averaging 29% and ranging from 23% to 33% cover across years) with no net decline between 1995 and 2009…. Crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) outbreaks and storm damage were responsible for more coral loss during this period than either bleaching or disease… we found no evidence of consistent, system-wide decline in coral cover since 1995.”

    So, yes, coral reefs can recover.

    But what about the ability of marine organisms to adapt to rising CO2? A new peer reviewed study by Parker et al. in a peer reviewed study titled: “Adult exposure influences offspring response to ocean acidification in oysters” punctures this hot air balloon of alarmism with empirical evidence from actual experiments.

    “The authors write that studies on the impact of ocean acidification on marine organisms that have been conducted to date “have only considered the impacts on ‘adults’ or ‘larvae’, ignoring the potential link between the two life-history stages and the possible carry-over effects that may be passed from adult to offspring,”…placed adults of wild-collected and selectively-bred populations of the Sydney rock oyster which they obtained at the beginning of reproductive conditioning – within seawater equilibrated with air of either 380 ppm CO2 (near-ambient) or 856 ppm CO2 (predicted for 2100 by the IPCC)…found that the larvae spawned from adults living in the “acidified” seawater were the same size as those spawned from adults living in near-ambient seawater; but they report that “larvae spawned form adults exposed to elevated CO2 were larger and developed faster.”…concluding that the results of their work suggest that “marine organisms may have the capacity to acclimate or adapt to elevated CO2 over the next century.”

    So, the offspring are better adapted to more CO2 in the water. This also supports an earlier study. Maynard et al 2008 in a peer reviewed paper titled, ‘Major bleaching events can lead to increased thermal tolerance in corals’ the Australian researchers reported:

    “.. .the range in bleaching tolerances among corals inhabiting different thermal realms suggests that at least some coral symbioses have the ability to adapt to much higher temperatures than they currently experience in the central Great Barrier Reef,”

    So, the GBR has already demonstrated the ability to adapt to changing conditions.

    On an anecdotal note, scuba diver Bob Halstead reports his own observations and doubts about the scare in response to a letter to Nature magazine:

    “The reason for my scepticism was my own well-publicised underwater observations at Dobu Island in Milne Bay where CO2 vents bubble through a thriving coral reef. Just maybe, I thought, these people do not a have a clue what they are writing about.”

    In another article he says the following:

    “My opinion, that acidification might not be the problem that alarmists state it will be, comes from observing the volcanic fumaroles at Dobu Island in PNG where virtually pure CO2 bubbles to the surface on a shallow reef. There is a vibrant sea grass bed, rather richer than normal but what might be expected of an area of increased plant “food” – CO2, also barren areas where the sea bed and vents are too hot for anything much to survive. There is also, with CO2 bubbles rising through it, a spectacularly rich and live coral reef.”

    To conclude this brief summary of peer reviewed research, in the journal Science, Pandolfi et al 2011, in a review of the literature regarding so-called acidification titled, “Projecting coral reef futures under global warming and ocean acidification” found the following:

    “As for the future, the four researchers write that “because bleaching-susceptible species often have faster rates of recovery from disturbances, their relative abundances will not necessarily decline.” In fact, they say that “such species could potentially increase in abundance, depending on how demographic characteristics and competitive ability are correlated with thermal tolerance and on the response of other benthic taxa, such as algae,” while they further note that “the shorter generation times typical of more-susceptible species (Baird et al., 2009b) may also confer faster rates of evolution of bleaching thresholds, which would further facilitate maintenance of, or increases to, the relative abundance of thermally sensitive but faster-evolving species (Baskett et al., 2009).”

    I could go on, but I’d just be laboring the point.

    Julie, peer reviewed research is showing the Great Barrier Reef to be robust and that coral reefs actually thrive on increased CO2 and warmer temperatures.

    The fear mongering about ocean ‘acidification’ which you and others indulge in does nothing for your credibility. If you willfully ignore peer reviewed scientific research on this matter why should readers trust your opinion on any other issue?

  • Julie Macken

    Cheers Steve, be good to hear from others about the issue of jobs

  • Steve

    Hi Julie
    When I was a kid attending primary school (a one room country job, six kids, a pit toilet out the back, and no refrigerator – which meant the government supplied milk was kept in a crate under a wet sugar bag and was usually sour by play lunch) our wise old teacher (for to us he appeared to be ancient) had a saying, ‘moderation in all things’ which, in retrospect, was sound advice.

    Applying that principle, it seems to me that your desire to destroy jobs in the mining industry so as to preserve tourism jobs is, in my opinion, misguided. It doesn’t have to be ‘all or nothing’. Both can, with prudent management, exist side by side.

    As I’ve pointed out in other comments, the fear and loathing directed at the fossil fuel industry is predicated on the exaggerated fear mongering by the proponents of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW).

    Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg, a noted believer in Anthropogenic Global Warming, is highly critical of the green movement’s misguided attack on the fossil fuel industry.

    In a recent article in Newsweek, Lomborg made some insightful observations and I recommend readers of this blog to give it careful consideration.

    Lomborg points out:

    “The Kyoto Protocol basically asked developed nations to cut CO2 emissions, either by reducing energy consumption or by using more expensive, greener energy. Economic models show that a full implementation of the Kyoto agreement would have cost the world an estimated $180 billion a year in lost GDP growth. Yet the benefit would be an immeasurable temperature reduction of just 0.004 degrees Celsius (0.008 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.”

    Julie, following the green ideology reduces GDP and reduced global GDP means reduced job opportunities. It means prolonging third world poverty.

    And as Lomborg points out … those lost jobs … that lost opportunity … that prolonging of the tyranny of poverty … would have achieved … nothing (for 0.004 degrees is not measurable outside of a laboratory).

    Lives sacrificed for nothing. That’s what the green ideology means; prolonging poverty to achieve nothing.

    Lomborg goes on to say:

    “Predictably, most countries either rejected the treaty or made changes that were barely noticeable. The abatement in CO2 emissions has been minuscule. Even the European Union, the treaty’s most enthusiastic supporter, has simply shifted much of its industrial production (and the resulting greenhouse-gas generation) to countries not covered by the Kyoto Protocol, like China.”

    Julie, China has grasped that opportunity with both hands to the betterment of its citizens. So, more jobs in China, less jobs in Europe; another unintended consequence of green ideology which, in this case, has worked to the betterment of human beings.

    Lomborg goes on:

    “We hear plenty of hype about climate-change “solutions” like solar panels and biofuels, but these green technologies are not yet the answer. As long as wind turbines and solar panels remain more expensive than fossil fuels while working only intermittently, they will never contribute much to our energy supply. Germany, the world’s largest per capita consumer of solar energy, produces just 0.3 percent of its energy this way. And to achieve this No. 1 status, the country has paid $130 billion for $12 billion worth of energy. The net reduction in CO2 emissions will slow the pace of global warming just 23 hours by the end of the century.

    Similarly, biofuel production is now consuming 40 percent of the U.S. corn harvest, even though it supplies only 4 percent of the transport fuel used in America. Around the world, the turn to biofuel crops is resulting in higher food prices—and hence increased hunger. And as farmers expand their agricultural land, they cut down more forests, which perversely could lead to an overall increase in CO2 emissions.”

    Ah, so the green dream of renewable energy has severe economic costs … higher energy, reduced GDP … less jobs … higher food prices and increased hunger … an unintended consequence of green ideology which is not so good.

    Lomborg’s critique continues:

    “But perhaps more important, what really matters to most people is not global warming and other problems on the Rio+20 agenda. There is a deep and disturbing disconnect between the mighty who walk the plush carpets in the U.N. arena and what the majority of the world’s inhabitants need.

    The truth is that while we mull green initiatives, approximately 900 million people remain malnourished, 1 billion lack clean drinking water, 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation, and 1.6 billion are living without electricity. Every year roughly 15 million deaths—a quarter of the world’s total—are caused by diseases that are easily and cheaply curable.

    What are the three most important environmental issues in developing nations? Most people in rich countries get the answer wrong, even with repeated tries. Global warming is not among them—not even if we look at all the deaths caused by flooding, droughts, heat waves, and storms. Since the early part of the 20th century, death rates from these causes have dropped 97 percent or more. Today, about 0.06 percent of all deaths in the developing world are the result of such extreme weather.”

    So, Julie, for all your fears of extreme weather … and all the money spent on useless climate schemes … the vulnerable of the world face real threats today which have nothing to do with climate … malnutrition… bad water … no sanitation … and no cheap electricity!

    Lomborg doesn’t stop there in describing the mortal dangers facing the vulnerable third world:

    “Instead, one of the biggest environmental killers in the developing world is a problem unfamiliar to most people in rich countries: indoor air pollution. We take for granted our access to heat, light, and convenience at the flick of a switch. But 3 billion people in developing nations have no choice but to use fuels like cardboard or dung to cook their food and try to warm their homes. The annual death toll from breathing the smoke of these fires is at least 1.4 million—probably closer to 2 million—and most victims are women and children. When you fuel your cooking fires with crop residues and wood, your indoor air quality can be 10 times worse than the air outside, even in the most polluted Third World cities. Not that you’re safe when you leave the house: outdoor air pollution is estimated to kill another 1 million people a year in the developing nations. Almost 7 percent of all deaths in the developing world come from air pollution. The figure is more than 100 times the toll from floods, droughts, heat waves, and storms.

    The second problem is the lack of clean drinking water and sanitation. About 7 percent of all deaths in the developing world are associated with a lack of clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene. That’s almost 3 million deaths each year.

    The third big environmental problem—and yes, it is an environmental one—is poverty. To the more than 1 billion people subsisting on less than $1.25 a day, worrying about environmental issues is a distant luxury. If your family is freezing, you will cut down the last tree for fuel; if they are starving, you will strip the land bare to feed them. And if you have no certainty about the future, you will provide for it in the only way possible: by having more children to care for you in your old age, regardless of how much they will add to humanity’s demands on the planet.

    In short, helping people to emerge from poverty is one of the best things we can do for the environment.”

    Julie, astute readers of this blog realize that cheap electricity is a quick way to lift people from the tyranny of poverty. Cheap electricity comes from fossil fuel. Not only will it improve the quality of life, the required fossil fueled infrastructure will mean jobs … and will save millions of lives.

    Lomborg states the obvious. Higher GDP means less poverty as demonstrated by China:

    “Look at China. It wasn’t by going green that China’s leaders pulled 600 million out of poverty in the past three decades. They did it by enormous—polluting, but overwhelmingly successful—GDP growth. They did it through large-scale international trade.

    Despite what you might imagine (Beijing also plays the West’s green charade), China gets just 1/20th of 1 percent of its energy from wind, and one half of 1/1,000th of 1 percent of its energy from solar panels. China’s leaders know—as do those in the West, despite their rhetoric—that wealth doesn’t come from subsidizing inefficient technologies, and that jobs aren’t created by taxing the rest of the economy to pay for uneconomic green jobs. They know that what matters is participating in an international economy. Economic studies show that a successful Doha Round of the World Trade Organization talks would do between 100 and 1,000 times more good for Third World countries than any realistic climate deal could ever achieve.”

    Julie, it is clear that green energy is not the way to reduce poverty and create more jobs globally … cheap fossil fuel energy is the answer to creating jobs. It’s a question of equity, how dare you deprive people in need cheap power? Why make them spend more of their limited resources on expensive green power? As Lomborg correctly points out:

    “Sure, sometimes solar panels can be the best way to provide access to electricity in far-flung communities. But for most of the 1.6 billion people who live without electricity, we should opt for the tested, simple, and cheap solution: hook them up to generators or power plants, which, just like ours, run mostly on fossil fuels. When the sun goes down, it’s literally lights out for those people. What makes us think they should have technologies that are more expensive, less reliable, and much feebler than the ones we rely on?”

    Julie, your goal of destroying fossil fuel jobs in Australia will deprive the impoverished of the world of jobs and cheap electricity.

    In a previous post you complained about the government reducing foreign aid in the recent budget.

    Julie, just imagine how many lives Christine Milne’s $10 billion green energy slush fund could save if it wasn’t wasted on inefficient wind farms?

    By prudently managing fossil fuel mining and tourism, viable jobs can exist in both … and the poor of the world can achieve the same standard as living as you and I take for granted.

  • Charles Green,

    It depends on the government’s approach to both the environment, the necessity of jobs and keeping foreign investors. Not everybody will have their agenda or issues but having a good government who keeps that and is actually concerned about all parties is a good way to start.