Count on resource boom, but not all its benefits

The Australian - 28.9.2011

THE scope of the coalmine and associated infrastructure project envisaged by Indian company GVK Power is a whole lot bigger than was proposed by Hancock Coal, but not all the benefits are going to flow to Australia.
GVK, Adani and Palmer are all planning to have coal shipped out of the Galilee Basin by 2014, and for this to happen, over the next three years there needs to be built at least one 500km railway, five mines, and new wharfs at Abbot Point. This would put a considerable strain on resources at any time, but given that just south at Gladstone three massive liquid natural gas plants are being built, it’s difficult to see just where all the workers are going to come from.

GVK had an answer for this as well — it will bring in its own. As Sanjay Reddy said this week, “We will be bringing in the required labour. There is a new enterprise migration scheme for large projects which we can use.”
Because what’s becoming increasingly obvious is that the Australian labour force doesn’t have the skills or the numbers to cope with the sheer scale of the building associated with coal and gas developments planned for Queensland alone over the next three years.
The creation of 21,000 jobs (8000 at Gladstone and 13,000 in the Galilee Basin) “in the construction phase” sounds great, but when that construction phase takes place over three years and then stops, it creates difficulties.
All of this tied in with a speech given by Westpac chief economist Bill Evans last week at the conference of the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association on the Gold Coast, where he questioned whether Australia would be getting the benefit of the mining boom.
Evans said employment projections being made relating to the mining boom were the result of just adding up the number of people that would be employed on individual projects, but this failed to take into account that Australia just didn’t have a spare 21,000 skilled workers for these projects.
Evans said two things would dilute the full effect of the boom: a great deal of the construction work would be undertaken offshore before being shipped to Australia; and a lot of temporary workforce would come from overseas.
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