4CA - Queensland's Home for Fake News

4CA - Queensland's Home for Fake News
4CA - Queensland's Home for Fake News Led by John "Cueball" Mackenzie

21 November 2011


Cities around Australia are fighting for the "right" to start or increase their "Fly-in/Fly-out" mining population.  

This policy, and in fact the way mining is being done in Australia, is already proving to be a corrosive and wrong-way decision for Australian society in the future.

How so?  Let's examine the mining situation here, and look at already the social and family impacts it's having on every level of Australian society.


In every other country in the world, miners are paid what they're worth as unskilled labor, usually near the bottom of the wage scale.  In the US, the next-highest paying country to Australia, miners are generally getting $40K-$50K per year, with a few mines paying up to $70K with overtime and bonus plans.  A good wage for a dangerous job generally done by men mostly who didn't even finish secondary school.  

The wage drops dramatically around the world, with Chinese miners making $2000 a year or less, and even lower in diamond and other African mines.  Hey, it's unskilled labor for the uneducated. 

But Australia, in its thirst for the enormous tax revenue paid by mining companies, the government has turned the education=$$$ equation on its head, disrupting the entire labor market and putting the normal operation of the economy on the economic equivalent of crack cocaine.  The ease at which mining is done in Australia, the raping of large tracts of land with no requirement or interest in any type of land restoration, and the massive profits being made by business and government has these unskilled Australian workers making two, three, and four times what even American miners are paid.  

Headhunters are now scouring Cairns for more sources of workers unskilled at mining, and arranging "fly-in/fly-out" contracts with new mines soon to come on stream.  Note that this is different than hiring unskilled workers - the unskilled worker market in Australia was long ago tapped out.  Between the truly unskilled and the lazy dole bludger, there are no more unskilled workers to be had.

So what are we doing now?  We're using these massively overinflated wages to entice SKILLED workers into these jobs.  And who's taking these jobs?  Policemen.  Firemen.  School teachers.  Office workers.  Tradies.  Computer technicians.  Office managers.  Business managers.  Pretty much any skilled worker is "eligible" to win the mining job lottery, with the bulk of workers still being sourced from regional areas of WA, QLD, and NSW - but expanding quickly.

The corrosive effect of these grossly-overpaid workers is having equally corrosive effects economically, culturally, socially, and educationally.  It is an incredible and profound stupidity that will leave Australia a gutted educational shell in years to come.  As the rest of the world pushes higher education, technology, and the upgrading of people's lives via higher skills Australia is deliberately pushing Australians down the ladder of success. 

And most communities in regional Australia are now seeing the first results of this diversion of labor from the usual, skilled occupations into the mining companies.  Some of these results are:

•  Queensland Police along with other policing agencies have dramatically lowered their standards for new recruits, and yet are seeing inadequate numbers of candidates for the profession.  This after much of the QPS middle management is being gutted by the exodus to the mine pay gold rush, leaving the Service with inadequate operations.  It's no wonder communities around Queensland are seeing massive increases in crime, and lowered clearance rates.  

•  Despite the lowest rate of construction in Australian history, tradies are in short supply across the country with many of these skilled workers diverted into mining jobs.  Roadworkers have been stripped from local councils around Queensland.  

•  Despite increased compensation and support for trade apprenticeships, most of these tradie-prep jobs are going begging.  Easier for 16 or 17 year olds to go directly to the mines to "make their fortune".

•  Mine communities, small-town Australia, are now being economically ravaged by these "great mining jobs".  Fly-in/Fly-Out leaves little money in the community. 

•  Mine communities with large live-there populations have seen massive price inflation in housing and other amenities.  Those living without the mining "crack cocaine $$" are being priced out of their own communities.  Nurses, teachers, public workers - all have seen the price of housing triple or quadruple, easily paid by the miners but unaffordable to "normal" workers.  The divide between those hooked on the mining "crack $$$" and those out of the money stream has turned economics on its head!  Skilled workers at the bottom of the economic pyramid, with unskilled mine workers at the top!  

•  The collapse in the Cairns shipyard industry was directly related to the mines.  As the shipyard companies saw their welders "picked off" by the mining $$$, their already inefficient operations were priced out of reality.  

•  Movement of goods in and out of our small towns is getting increasingly more difficult as truckers are diverted from their normal jobs to the "crack cocaine $$$" from mining.  Just this week, banana farmers near Innisfail complained of their inability to move bananas to market, as their seasonal need for truckies compounded by these same truckies going to work at the mines for wages in excess of $150K a year means there likely won't be any great fall in banana prices.  Reports are similar from the sugar cane and milk industries.  

Cairns is already seeing some of the negative effects of the mining boom while our "leaders" push forward with more plans to suck up this mining crack cocaine.  Some of these effects include:

•  The explosion of crime among young people in Cairns is known by the QPS to be a direct result of "dad" being away at the mines, and "mum" at her local job as clerk at Coles or Woolies, or other minimally-skilled job.  And with dad off at the mines, sporting clubs across the region all report the impossibility in getting dads to act as coaches and other sporting assistants.  

•  Cairns schools today reported the highest absentee rate for decades.  Over 11% of students are missing on any given day.  This means literally hundreds of school-age children are roaming the city, unsupervised, and in many cases responsible for the explosion in crime.  Been to Cairns Central, Raintrees, Stockland, or other shopping centres during schooldays?  I am horrified to see the numbers of wagging students, UNCHALLENGED by Police Beat officers or any Queensland Education staff in these venues.  Much less when they're roaming the streets.

•  And just as the crime rate goes up, the number and quality of police available is going down.  Police in Queensland are lumbered by the lowest take-up of technology in any state, with officers taking hours to do paperwork and crime reports that are done in much less time elsewhere.  As any old-timer in Cairns, or anywhere in Australia can attest, the soft looking barely out of their teens police trainee now routinely seen around our town is no match for the hardened crim, or a 12 year old bent on a crime spree.  We're now routinely being told arrests are being made of children for 100+ crimes.  Thanks to the mines.  

•  What about "dad" at his mining job?  Long days, gruelling conditions, sometimes living in less than ideal conditions - dad is pictured as "sacrificing" for the betterment of his family.  But the reality is much different.  Most of our miners are now living unwholesome, violent, mining money crack-addict lifestyles.  Prostitution is rampant in mining areas with migration agents encouraged by the mining companies to fly in large numbers of Chinese hookers.  Government inattention to the massive increase in "student visas" has meant they are complicit in this.  When it comes to mining, the Chinese are fucking us in every way possible.  In fact the use of whores is traditionally encouraged by the mining companies as an outlet for male aggression, to minimise worksite disputes, and ultimately increase productivity.  All this depravity, while Mum is home, usually also working, trying to manage children alone (the new Australian "broken home"), while dad is busy working, fucking strange and often diseased women company provided women, and drinking his arse off with his workmates, along with many taking all types of drugs from marijuana, to speed to heroin.  And with the police "defanged" in these company towns, anything goes.

The artificial creation of one-parent households by the government has precedent - in the 1960's the US Government increased welfare benefits to single-parent families, with "bonuses" for each new child born out of wedlock.  While this policy was finally eliminated by President Clinton in the early 1990's, the social damage to US society will live on for generations.  

The evidence is clear.  Fly-in/Fly-out mining creates unsustainable communities.  The mining community is a cesspool of whores, alcohol, drugs, and testosterone, with all the "normal" life squeezed out.  And the communities sending these young men to the mines are unsustainable without them.  Thousands of children being raised in communities with no men, no leaders, no fathers, no hope.  Crime growing and no one to fight it.  Fires with no one to fight them.  Houses needed with no one to build them.  Children needing to be educated with no one to teach them.  Roads needing repair with no one to fix them.  The corrosion to Australian society is already evident to those who care to look, and growing daily.

And the solution is so simple.  Allow, indeed encourage, the mining companies to import low skilled workers from countries in the region desperate to find jobs for their non-skilled workers.  The Philippines is one such country.  Millions of filipinos work offshore, as unskilled construction workers in the Middle East, as nannies and housekeepers in Hong Kong and Singapore.  Paid wages commensurate with their skills, they're happy to work hard overseas for five or ten years while young, building a nest-egg or supporting their extended families.  These workers are available from many of our Pacific Island neighbours.  

Additionally, we should extend the "super profits" tax to the workers.  Why should a non-skilled worker be allowed to pull "super wages" out of a company and gut two communities in the process?  Many object to the companies making "super profits"?  Why should workers be making "super profits" to the detriment of their fellow citizens?  This is mateship??

Will anything be done?  I am not optimistic.  We've allowed the unions and greenies to block the natural movement of low-cost labor, making Australia the highest cost production company in the world.  When an unskilled teen makes $150K/year driving a truck back and forth at a mine, why should he get any further eduction?  When an unskilled teen girl can make $20/hour running a till at a Shell Servo, why should she get an eduction to be a nurse for only $2 or $3 more an hour?

Without drastic reform of migration and wage policies, Australia is slowly but assuredly rotting from within.  We can't provide this huge disincentive to education and expect our country to survive in an world where higher education is demanded.  However like all "complex" problems, the cause and effect from something like "Fly-in/Fly-out" mining will unlikely be addressed at the root - it requires depth of thought and analysis, and the ability to communicate with the public.  We have virtually no politicians capable of doing something so basic to their jobs.  Modern government is sadly now the equivalent of social "whack a mole".

Head hurt from reading?  Here's a cute game you can play.



Second Anonymous said...

Hillbilly, this is a very interesting blog. There is much that I don't agree with and equally, much that has made me stop and think.

This is what a good talkback announcer/journalist should do. I will sit back with interest and watch the comments come in.

You have my vote as the best replacement for Cueball.

CBD Warrior said...

Unbelievably terrific analysis, Mr. Watcher. I agree totally we're now paying people to be stupider, not smarter. My suspicion has always been that these are all planned outcomes from the government - a stupid electorate allows the ruling class to operate unimpeded.

Liz said...

A very sobering commentary. I have long had a lot of concerns about the impact fly in fly out has on relationships, and the family unit.

bogan b said...

Yeah not too good when you miss yer kids the dog the bird the ginnee pig and the old lady. Yeah the money might be good but buggar sacrificing a happy home life hey. Id go mental anyway wondering if some bastard would try and move in on my old lady or if the kids got sick or the dog got sick.

Rastapopoulos said...

A large FIFO population would drive up rents and put additional strain on services, which in turn will lead to rate rises.

Funny how many of the anti-CEP crowd keep moaning about potential rate rises, but at the same time are all for making Cairns a FIFO hub.

Similarly in the days that Cairns was still a very small country town it was the same people who were constantly decrying the law and order situation (and still are today), who were pushing hardest for Cairns to grow as fast as possible, which was the main reason for a deterioration of the law and order situation in the first place...

Anyone who raised any objections back then was immediately labeled anti-development or Greenie tree-hugger. Well the chickens certainly have come home to roost...

And on other subject; yes, it would be great if cruise liners could access the Inlet, but before we start dredging, maybe we should have a look at what's happening in Gladstone. No good having cruise liners come in, if all the marine life has been wiped out as a result !!

Kay said...

It isn't unusual for a lot of the Australian men who live in compounds in Papua New Guinea working in mines or on construction projects to keep a Papua New Guinea woman as "mistress". I often wonder if their wives back in Australia know about this. Rastapopoulos above, the State Government has an investigation currently underway into looking at the effects of wholescale dredging of Cairns Inlet. We will have to wait and see what it comes up with.

Alison Alloway said...

Queensland Nickel Industries (QNI) built a small community at Greenvale about 220 kms North of Townsville on the Lynd Highway in the 1970s (?). My late husband, John worked there as a plant operator before we married in 1979In those days the township had around 3,000 people and included a Community Health Centre, school and small shopping centre.
While nickel mining has ceased, I believe scandium oxide is now being mined just to the South of the township and today there are around 250 people living in Greenvale.

Liz said...

Kay, from my own knowledge, I don't believe many women back in Australia realise what is happening.

Anon No.4 said...

Good thread, silly posts. it's not only blokes who hook up in camp, girls, and it doesn't only happen in PNG. And some of the camp arrangements are as durable and deep as the arrangements in the two family homes, wherever they might be.

TH eonly thing I'd take issue with is saying that the cairns shipbuilding industry was a victim of FIFO. Sure, it had a bit to do with it, but the problem was basically that the proprietor of NQEA ripped every last cent out of it to spend on himself, rather than the business.

nomooremike said...

My experience is of people leaving Cairns for the mines because there are no jobs here. If the above were true, where are all the vacancies?

athena said...

Anon No 4 mate, you're a classic male wanker. Wank, wank, wank.

Liz said...

Anon No 4, read the article thoroughly and do some research. The majority of workers employed in mines on a fly in fly out basis are MEN and I have yet to hear of one single sole Australian woman using a Papua New Guinea male for "relief" whilst working in PNG.

KitchenSlut said...

Oh dear I do uderstand the sentiment but query the detail. I have angsted at how to respond as someone from a family mining background but anyway .....

1) The global wage comparison is not relevant without explicit productivity comparison. Chinese mine workers actually appear relatively overpaid on your numbers?

2) FIFO is significant for crime in Cairns? Shouldn't Perth be the barometer for this? Is here any research on that?

3) Related to the above mining FIFO is now far less significant in Cairns than at times in the past? In the early 90's Cairns was one of Australias largest mining towns with FIFO to Kidston, Red Dome, Misima, and far more local involvement in the developments at Porgera and Lihir a well as a support base and office for the Freeport mine in Irian Jaya.

4) Many ssmaller mining towns have been even bigger cesspits of social dysfunction than what is described here. Anyone in the Bowen Basin knew the problems with drugs and relationships in towns like Glendon.

5) The first 'FIFO' coal operation in the Bowen Basin was North Goonyella 4 days on / off bused out of Mackay which was actually partially a response to the problems in mining towns and seen as attractve to many workers

6) Many operations don't have the longevity to sustain the investment in local infrastructure. This also relates to construction operations.

7) As above how would kids be benifited moving to small mining towns with only the most basic education options?

8) Mining in extraordinarily diverse and judgements on skill levels fraught with value laden misconceptions.

The concept of inported workers for mining is naive. Why not imported workers for the jobs claimed to have been stripped? It's almost funny in context of what is happening at Qantas and what confrontation that suggestion could translate to with the CFMEU.

Yeah .... can just see the CFMEU agreeing to Filipino workers in mines!?!

Nice sentiment .... badly executed .....

Rastapopoulos said...

Kay said...
" Rastapopoulos above, the State Government has an investigation currently underway into looking at the effects of wholescale dredging of Cairns Inlet. We will have to wait and see what it comes up with."

Yes let's wait and see before we destroy the very thing that put us on the map in the first place. The State Government's efforts at looking into the Gladstone unexplained fish kills so far seem to consist of denying/obfuscating any links between large scale dredging and possible effects on marine life.

CBD Tarzan said...

Well I find myself agreeing with CBD Warrior on all points which is interesting maybe we are related on some distant level.
I've put CV's out for the great mining pots of gold but inspite of the money on offer find it difficult to extracate myself from family to cash in on the booming resource sector.
There has been bugger all support for local primary or secondary industry in the Far North.
Weather this is due to poor representation or mallaise and incompetancy of our leaders is debateable but one thing is certain a change of government will happen soon.
This is a land of oppertunity and we should all benifit not just those who are fortunate enough to live in the south.

Anon No.4 said...

Girls, attack the argument, not the person. The facts speak for themselves. I wasn't only talking about PNG, but for what it's worth, your comments are racist as well as wrong.

Liz said...

Yep Anon No 4, what is happening in PNG is both racist and exploitative and the perpetrators are almost exclusively white males. I also doubt there would be many male prostitutes available for women in those stretch limos in the Australian mines either.