Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Labor loves mining

This is about as close as most people get to the mining industry: an oversize truckload of heavy machinery rumbling down a country road. First you see the police car, and maybe a hand stuck out the window waving you over to the left. Then the advance warning car moving slowly down the two-lane highway. After a bit around the corner comes a massive truck with a trailer, and on the trailer is a huge piece of equipment constructed in Sydney or Melbourne, or imported to one of those cities with an overseas point of origin. The brief stop delays your journey by a few minutes. There's nothing holding back the mining business.

When Paul Howes came out in favour of coal-seam gas he was simply coming in behind the workers who service mining. You might see them when you're driving in the country. You stop for the day at a motel in a small country town. Just as dusk falls the motel, which had earlier seemed quite deserted, starts to fill as heavily-loaded utility trucks pull into the carpark and men in high-visibility gear step out and into their rooms. These are the worlers Paul Howes has in mind when he comes out in favour of CSG. You almost never see them, but there are tens of thousands of men and women in the bush who work on gas wells, service mining equipment, work in the mines, or are otherwise employed in this huge industry. It is to them that Howes is speaking.

But when Howes asks the Minister to make sure there is enough natural gas reserved for domestic use he is talking to another set of workers: those employed in manufacturing. Tens of thousands of Australian workers are employed in industries that use natural gas as a feedstock in their manufacturing processes. These are valuable jobs for Labor, as well.

People who complain that Labor is deserting a cause by backing mining are just deluding themselves. Labor and mining are well and truly in bed together. If you think that Labor wants to shut down CSG or stop coal mining, you are simply misinformed. Labor is 100 percent behind the mining industry. What they want from the mining industry is a fair share of the wealth that mining extracts from sovereign land, in the form of non-renewable resources. This enables Labor to secure the approval of another demographic: the urban voter. Labor's stance vis-a-vis the mining industry is not surprising, and those who are unable to see how Howes can say the things he has said today need to look at where Labor's voters work. Labor is very much intent on receiving the votes of workers in the mining industry.

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