Australia’s Dirty Business

Dirty Business is a three part series on Australian mining that was yesterday launched by SBS.

The documentary investigates how mining has shaped Australia’s culture, economy and political landscape.

“Mining affects every aspect of our lives. The story of mining is Australia’s story,” SBS said.

Episode 1: MONEY

The first episode on the theme of money debated if mining has made us all richer or whether it is just leading us to another bust? It also examined the foreign workers issue asking if people should be brought in to do the jobs Australians can’t or won’t do.

The issues and events covered first up sparked a sense of déjà vu for  us here at Australian Mining, describing the Australian gold rush of the 1800’s and the controversial racial debates and subsequent Chinese Immigration Act of 1861.

One couldn’t help but think we are having the same debates today when it comes to Rhinehart’s suggestion just last year to import cheap labour in order to bring costs down and do the jobs Australians aren’t.

In fact Australia has in the past imported cheap labour to work our mines; back in the late 1890’s Herbert Hoover ran Western Australia’s gold fields before he was the president of the United States.

His strategy was to import Southern Europeans (primarily Italians and Yugoslavians) who lived in substandard accommodation and worked for minimum wage.

Thus keeping mining costs down and profits up, and so the mining conglomerates are given life.

Another issue that is touched on is resource nationalisation versus the influx of foreign investment.

With the sheer volume of resources in Australia, whether it is bauxite in the Darling Ranges, iron ore in the Pilbara or coal in the Bowen Basin, Australia just didn’t, and still doesn’t, have the cash reserves to efficiently develop the infrastructure and operations necessary to take full advantage of the deposits on our own.

It seems that the issues we are still debating today are history repeating itself; even the sex worker debate isn’t a recent issue when it comes to mining, nor is the fact that mining kept Australia out of the depths of depression after the Wall Street crash in 1929, and did so again through the GFC of recent years.

So maybe it’s time to look at what we did before and ask ourselves what worked? What didn’t? Who suffered? How can we run this industry better to ensure stability and longevity for years to come?

 

The next two episodes will be on power and land and Australian Mining can’t wait. 

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