As published recently in the new independent Queensland Telegraph newspaper.
By John Mikkelsen
A FORMER senior technical manager at Gladstone Power Station has hit out at the irony of wide spread “dirty industry” job losses in Central Queensland, at the same time a major “clean energy” manufacturer laid off hundreds of workers in Brisbane.
According to Cameron Hoare, who has a science and environmental engineering background, more than a thousand job losses flagged in Gladstone and some CQ coal mines in recent weeks are “only the start”.
When the Gillard Labor Government introduced its controversial carbon dioxide tax in July, workers in the aluminium, coal and other energy intensive industries were assured any job losses would be more than offset by new jobs created in the clean energy sector.
But that has not been the case with Australia’s largest manufacturer of clean energy wind turbine towers, which recently collapsed spectacularly. More than 300 workers at the RPG Group’s Wacol factory were laid off recently and the company called in voluntary administrator, Ferrier Hodgson.
This happened in the same week that Queensland Alumina Ltd (QAL) announced jobs would be cut at its Gladstone refinery, which is the city’s oldest major industrial site dating back to the 1960’s.
And in the same time frame, hundreds more jobs have been lost in CQ coal mines. In the latest announcements, Ensham Resources has slashed the workforce at its Emerald open cut operation from 900 to 500 on top of 150 previous reductions and 200 more likely by the end of the year.
A further 300 reductions were announced at BHP’s Gregory Open cut while last month Xstrata flagged 600 cuts without specifying which of its mines in the Hunter Valley or Bowen Basin might be affected and at Wesfarmers Curragh coal mine 1200 contractors were warned their jobs could go. Rio Tinto has also warned of cuts.
However, what sets QAL apart was its reference to “new taxes” among factors influencing its decision.
In a brief statement, the company said plans were in place to "restructure" its operations and “new taxes” were part of the challenges it faced.
"The aluminium structure in Australia is facing extremely difficult market conditions due to a high exchange rate, higher costs of production, low metal process and new taxes," QAL chairman Armando Torres said.
He said the restructure would involve a reduction in the number of support roles across the site, with no "front line roles" made redundant.
"This is a challenging time for QAL. We will work hard to protect jobs wherever possible and we are committed to ensuring that all affected employees are treated fairly," he said.
The company revealed that128 roles have been cut since July 1, with 93 of those from natural attrition and 35 from redundancies.
“New taxes” was seen as an obvious reference to the carbon tax, which Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, and Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd, have repeatedly blamed for hundreds of other job losses in the aluminium and mining industries. This has always been denied by the Labor Government, which points to low prices, the high Australian dollar and increased State royalties.
The QAL restructure follows 90 job cuts announced at the nearby Boyne Smelters Limited in August.
Widespread cuts come as no surprise to Mr Hoare, who worked in the electricity industry for about 30 years before retiring as engineering and technical services manager at NRG’s Gladstone Power Station in 2009.
“The losses of jobs in Gladstone and Central Queensland mines are only the start, as the industries here are all energy intensive,” he said.
“To introduce excessive regulations and taxes, such as the Carbon Dioxide Tax, on these productive sections of the economy at a time when the world economy is in the doldrums and the Australian dollar is at such a high value, is economic vandalism,” he said.