Over the last eight years, the AMWU has led the debate on job creation in Western Australia. We've warned that our resources boom was temporary and that most of the work was heading offshore. Now we've come up with the Plan for WA Jobs to diversify our economy and create jobs beyond the mining boom.
The truth is WA can’t continue to put all of its eggs into one basket. The resources industry will always be important to WA, but it will continue to go up and down, as it has throughout the post-colonisation history of Western Australia. If we want to maintain our quality of life, we need to make the most of the opportunities the resources industry presents us with, but we also need to diversify our economy and remove the risks involved in being a one industry state. The good news is, we have plenty of opportunities.
With strong leadership, we can ensure far more of the design and fabrication work for our large resources projects is done here. We can power new industries with more affordable natural gas, as well as being a leader in renewable energy.
We have a world class ship-building industry, and a highly skilled workforce, just waiting for a state government to believe in them and secure defence and civilian ship-building contracts for WA.
With our public transport system set to benefit from a significant expansion of rail in the years ahead, we could take a strategic decision to build new rail cars here, in the same way the Federal Government, after some pressure from us, took the decision to build the navy’s new submarine fleet in Australia.
And, with all the money the state government spends on new infrastructure projects each year, it should be possible to secure more work for local suppliers. Thanks to Colin Barnett, we’ll be going to watch the football in a foreign fabricated stadium, walking across a foreign fabricated bridge to get there. We need to do better.
Every now and again, I reflect on how lucky I am to have been born and brought up in Western Australia. However, we can’t ride luck – the world is changing very quickly. We need to take advantage of everything we have going for us, and make positive decisions to take advantage of every opportunity.
I despair when I think about what the Liberals are doing to TAFE in this state. They have ripped money out of the system, and jacked up fees. This has scared off potential students, at a time when we need our young people to develop new skills for the industries of the future. At the heart of any Plan for WA Jobs needs to be a real commitment to education and training. Our young people deserve the same opportunities we had.
We also need to have a think about the rosters and hours of work being offered by big employers, particularly in the resources industry. We’ve seen a trend in recent years, where companies are asking their workers to work longer hours, with longer swings between days off.
This is about employers having fewer employees to manage. It might be good for profits, but it means fewer jobs and has been found to be damaging to the mental health and family life of workers. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll be campaigning hard to ensure that a Plan for WA Jobs is the number one issue going into the state election, and we’ll be looking for individuals and organisations who share this view to join us.
We look forward to your feedback.
AMWU WA State Secretary