Henry’s Wandering Geologist was reminded he hadn’t sent any dispatches to Henry of late. This was due to distractions like surviving heart failure by the slimmest of margins causing a reappraisal of life’s priorities and being distracted by a renewed interest in hi fi, HWG being a hi fi tragic, but after being vigorously rattled in his cage by Henry , HWG has returned.
(In case new readers are puzzled by the acronym HWG, it means Henry’s Wandering Geologist. Except that his wanderings have slowed down significantly, for obvious reasons, and HWG now amuses himself trying to get a handle on OH&S regulations, Environmental regulations and other divers impediments to mining that the idiots in guvmint place in front of him).
Now Henry’s readers might have noticed reports in the media about a shortage of workers in the mining industry, a shortage of skilled workers to be precise and which HWG recently flagged in the latest Australian Institute of Geoscientists News after it was raised in the Financial Review of the Fairfax media stable a couple of weeks ago. Henry’s readers might also know of anecdotes concerning the “fluoro” shirted workers in the industry receiving large pay packets, so a legitimate question might be why there is a perceived shortage of workers, because in reality there isn’t. The shortage is due to government interference and ill-conceived policies, as well as the union closed shop in its modernized version via the OH&S and Environmental regulatory regimes. Surprised? Don’t be, for that is what it is.
Henry’s readers may also not believe this but there isn’t a mining boom per se, only an iron and a coal mining boom, because the rest of the industry is in the doldrums as risk capital is drying up, if it has not dried up totally.
Now I use a number of signs to indicate a recession is on the way. The first is the unsolicited offers of new credit cards from the usual sources – meaning that a credit expansion occurred and money lenders are swimming in money. The second sign is the proliferation of luxury item advertising and as usual the Fairfax media don’t disappoint with their expensive lifestyle glossy inserts in the Financial Review, for example. (Given the Fairfax political bias, HWG gets a little confused when the socialists start peddling luxury items they can’t afford but hope we rich capitalists can).
Another sign is drilling companies looking for work – and I’ve had quite a few calling lately. And it seems there are plenty of geologists out there looking for work as well, and which therefore presages a looming recession or depression. Of course a quick glance at the Baltic Freight index says it all, so gentle readers, you are advised to batten down the hatches for we are heading for another GFC and this time Australia won’t weather it well at all due to the idiots in charge in Canberra. Both the EU and the US are bankrupt except our progressive friends don’t see it like that, and they believe that all is well economically on the planet. Back to looney land in Canberra, however.
It seems the Gillard Guvmint swaggers from self inflicted crisis to self inflicted crisis and the crisis du jour this weekend (26/27 May) is over the importation of foreign workers to fill the skills shortage in the iron mining business. Senator Dougie Cameron, himself an imported worker by the way, is reported to be gobsmacked, and AWU president Paul Howes isn’t happy either, accusing the mining industry for not employing the 128,000 manufacturing jobs lost since 2008.
And whether this crisis du jour was engineered as a distraction from Gillard’s HSU problems or for some other reason remains moot but listening to the feigned indignation of the ACTU and the trade union heavies on the radio causes much amusement.
However the answer is pretty straight forward because our workplaces are so heavily regulated in terms of OH&S as well as environmental regimes that the trade unions have been able to create a modern day closed shop; No credentials or certificates, no job mate. This may not necessarily be the case in the hard rock mines however since those are small and usually light on in the HR department follies. An explanation? Those of us who started our careers during the nickel boom of the sixties didn’t have to put up with HR departments and OH&S regimes but ever since the Whitlam government was elected during 1972, things have become gradually worse as the HR departments started to exist and increased their power. One compelling memory was the discovery that HR types did not regard the profession of geologist as a vocation but only as a mere job, and that we geologists should aspire to greater goals than pure science. So I was astonished to learn that a colleague ended up working as a HR staffer rather than as a scientist in the exploration division. How WMC changed during the mid 1970’s.
It is generally accepted in the industry that the WMC HR department destroyed WMC’s exploration division by insisting on equal opportunity and affirmative action and safety compliant field vehicles. Example – field geologists generally use Toyota Landcruiser 4WD utes. These are light trucks and then lacked air bags etc. In order to make them safe, under the guidelines of the precautionary principle, HR department created a “safe” light vehicle (LV). Problem was that once the geologist and compulsory field assistant buckled up, the landcruiser became illegal in that it was overloaded. Probably an exaggeration but a colleague at the time insists it was true – the roll cage and safety equipment weighted so much that adding, say 200 kg, tripped the car from legal to illegal. This then required field staff to sign a disclaimer, which they refused to, and hence WMC geologists could not go out in the field. WMC’s geological expertise, apart from the idiotic affirmative action policies, went down the gurgler.The wonders of the precautionary principle.
So one of the principal reasons the big miners have worker shortages is that perhaps many workers are just not interested in the OH&S bulldust and refuse to work for them; HWG certainly doesn’t and won’t contemplate working for any company with an HR department.
2000 years ago a Chinese Sage, Ssu-Ma Ch’ien, wrote: The Records of the Grand Historian of China.
'Society must obviously have farmers before it can eat; foresters, fishermen, miners, etc., before it can make use of natural resources; craftsmen before it can have manufactured goods; and merchants before they can be distributed. But once these exist, what need is there for government directives, mobilizations of labour, or periodic assemblies? Each man has only to be left to utilize his own abilities and exert his strength to obtain what he wishes. Thus, when a commodity is very cheap, it invites a rise in price; when it is very expensive, it invites a reduction. When each person works away at his own occupation and delights in his own business then, like water flowing downward, goods will naturally flow forth ceaselessly day and night without having been summoned, and the people will produce commodities without having been asked. Does this not tally with reason? Is it not a natural result?'