Boom time for the rich rats in Western Australia
Nothing better illustrates the nature of Western Australia’s mining boom than the respective fortunes of mine owners and First Nations people writes Lian Jenvey in Red Flag.
In the same week that Gina Rinehart secured a multi-billion dollar loan to begin operations at Roy Hill, the world’s biggest iron ore mine, Swan Valley Nyungar community housing was bulldozed to rubble.
The mid-March demolition cleared the way for a new reserve. According to the Western Australian government, the human occupants of the area had to be banished so that “nature” could flourish. No such environmental concerns were on display with regard to Rinehart’s mine.
In spite of the posters in Perth bus shelters proclaiming mining companies’ deep respect, virtually no Indigenous people are employed in the industry.
It is not just Indigenous communities that suffer so the likes of Gina Rinehart can dig more profit from the earth.
A recent study from Curtin University, Sharing the boom: the distribution of income and wealth in WA, documents some inconvenient facts.
Across WA, wealth inequality has grown faster than in any other part of the country writes Lian Jenvey in Red Flag. Low income households are falling behind faster and also getting poorer in absolute terms.
Perhaps the clearest statistic about the reality of WA’s boom is that the wealthiest 40 percent of the population hold 82 percent of the wealth.
Mining bosses like Rinehart have spent much of the boom bemoaning the “entitlement mentality” of the working class. But workers are clearly not the big winners here.
That is more clearly the case for those living in mining areas. In Pilbara boom towns like Karratha, coffee costs $7 a cup and a Big Mac almost $10.
Accommodation costs are so high – $1800 per week for a three-bedroom house – that many workers rent the front yards of established houses. They pay $300 a week for the right to pitch a tent. For those unable to afford that, there is a tent city burgeoning on the outskirts of the town.
There is a boom here all right – but the big benefits are going to a pretty small coterie of the already filthy rich.