Today I had a wander through IKEA. Have you noticed all the signs around IKEA explaining all the ways they keep costs down? One of the ways is that they make it as self-serving as possible to reduce the number of staff they have to pay. Of course, one of the other ways that they don’t advertise around the store, is that they pay virtually no tax in Australia.
So they have access to a secure economy, fire services, reliable power sources, and our law enforcement teams and yet they employ minimal staff and pay minimal tax. Now why would they do that? Oh yeah. Profit. Of course, the benefit we get from that little agreement is that a few people do get jobs and a whole lot of people get access to some relatively cheap stuff (let’s leave out, at this point, what a negative effect this has on local industry).
Now let’s think about Adani in the same context. The thing is… it’s a truth ALMOST universally acknowledged that for a man in want of a quick buck, coal is a bit obsolete. It’s kind of like investing in horse-cart making in Michigan in the 1930s.
Of course, we aren’t going to get a whole lot of pretty walk-through coal warehouses popping up with cheap coal available to the common consumer. So the thing that Adani has sold so well, is jobs. Gautam Adani promises several thousand Australian jobs and, the other day, when the Queensland Government gave Adani the green light, locals were celebrating. They want those jobs. And I get that.
The fear of having no money is a WAY WAY WAY more immediate existential threat than Climate Change. That’s an argument that no activist can win.
A member of my family was working in northern Queensland a couple of years ago and she told me a story about a bloke who came into her office and pretty much sobbed on her desk because he couldn’t afford to feed his kids. The story was that he was a casual at a nearby coal mine but an activist group had come in and had caused the coal mine to close down for a while. Because this guy was casual, he didn’t get paid while the coal mine was closed. He was terrified for his family.
I can only imagine the fear and desperation in that poor guy’s heart. It’s really awful to consider.
So imagine five years down the track. The government has allowed Adani to do what he will. Maybe he hired some Aussies and maybe they dug up some coal. But demand is dropping away and selling coal is getting harder. Profits aren’t what was hoped for. Adani is thinking about upping sticks. Even supposing he treats his workers as well as possible and gives them plenty of warning, what are their chances of finding other jobs? Just today I was reading an article about what happened to workers in Geelong (Vic) and Elizabeth (SA) when the Ford and Toyota factories closed down. It wasn’t easy. And it won’t be easy for coal miners.
Measures need to be put in place to retrain and transition workers so that they’re not disadvantaged by poor planning. It’s up to the government to lead the country through this change.
Right now, the government is driving Australian coal miners into a brick wall that most nations have signposted, red flagged and hung flashing lights around. I picture a cartoon with Morrison waving an arm from a truck window yelling “Don’t worry, fellas! The mother-load is just on the other side!”
I understand the coal miners. But I think the government’s position is unforgivable.