The youth unemployment rate in the suburbs surrounding the Kwinana strip has risen again, as many your Western Australians increasingly miss out on benefits from the resources boom.
ABS data release last week showed the unemployment rate for 15-19 year olds in the south-metropolitan region of Perth rose to 27 per cent in December 2011. This is up from 22.6 per cent in December 2010 and has almost doubled from the 14.6 per cent recorded in December 2008.
Residents in the south-metropolitan suburbs of Perth have generally fed steel-fabrication businesses and other industries on the Kwinana strip and the steady increase in youth unemployment in the region can be directly attributed to lower levels of work and fewer apprenticeships on offer.
Our campaign has been highlighting the increased off-shoring of engineering and steel fabrication work. The Barnett Government has allowed oil and gas projects like Gorgon and Wheatstone to send nearly all of their steel fabrication work offshore and it has recently been revealed that many Chinese financed mining projects require their fabrication to be performed in China. Mr Barnett even signed a State Development Agreement for the Oakajee Port and Rail Project that endorsed that project’s engineering and fabrication being performed by Chinese businesses.
In comments to the The West Australian today, Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien defended State Government policy and the local content performance of WA’s resources sector, saying that, “onshore resource projects had 70 to 90 per cent local content.”
Statistics like these mask the problems faced by local engineers and steel fabricators by including every dollar spent by projects. Mr O’Brien is counting every dollar spent locally by projects, on items like catering, cleaning, travel and corporate hospitality, to distract us from the fact that very, very little skilled work is performed locally. Mr O’Brien’s method of assessing the local benefits of projects is further flawed by his Department counting contracts as “local”, even if up to half of their value is added offshore (as described in the State Government’s May 2011 Local Content Report). This could see an overestimation of local expenditure by up to 100 per cent.
This debate about statistics can be confusing and can distract people from the real issue. In a State like Western Australia, which is going through the biggest resources construction boom in our nation’s history, it is a tragedy that more and more young people in traditionally blue collar parts of Perth, are increasingly without work or training opportunities.