This is WA’s chance to get mining boom right
14 Dec 2018
Here’s hoping third time’s a charm. After royally screwing up the first two modern resources booms — first the one that saw house prices go berserk (2003 to 2008), then the one that made coffee prices go berserk (2010 to 2014), WA has a chance to get this one right.
It is going to be a lot easier this time, for a few reasons.
First, at $75 billion, the outlay, while huge, is more modest than last time when Chevron single-handedly spent that much on its two money-pit LNG projects.
Second, the State’s infrastructure is much better prepared. There’s no chance of three-star hotels commanding $450 a night.
Third, a broke WA Government is busy selling copies of Big Issue rather than competing with private industry building a stadium, Elizabeth Quay and several massive hospitals.
Fourth, industry has no time for the build-it-at-any-cost mentality that prevailed when execs got drunk on iron ore prices of $180 a tonne and $120-a-barrel oil.
The Chamber of Minerals and Energy’s Paul Everingham is softening expectations, telling FIFO workers eyeing new jetskis that “the once-in-100-year Chinese expansion is not happening again”. In good news for tradies who thought $120,000 was the new minimum wage, Everingham is sufficiently worried about a fresh wages spike that he is urging us to “welcome interstate and overseas people looking for jobs”.
He belled the cat there because it’s foreigners (it’s OK to be xenophobic when they earn more than you) who often take the cream on big resource projects, particularly in oil and gas.
Woodside is spending mind-boggling amounts in the North West but it will again be the Dutch and French engineers who make the fat stacks, not Shano the chippie from Thornlie.
If Shano upskilled and learnt geophysics, then he might be able to buy back the V8 Maloo ute he sold when things went tits up three years ago. Until then he will have to be content with a decent but not life-changing boost to his income in coming years.
Mark McGowan wants to keep a bigger chunk of the money here so Shano can do something about the negative equity he was left with after buying his house-and-land package from Nigel Satterley at the peak of the market five years ago.
“We want to establish WA as a global leader in LNG collaboration, innovation, maintenance and support, exporting services,” the Premier said.
Noble intentions, but he can’t take his eye off what should be his Government’s main goal: clearing the bottlenecks that WA rich-lister Chris Ellison recently warned were re-emerging.
“Over the past five to seven years the manufacturing facilities in Perth have been diminishing at a rapid rate, and now we’ve got South Flank and other projects starting to come online so we’ve actually got a real congestion problem down in the fab shops in Perth that no one anticipated,” he said.