The $85,000 in funding was announced yesterday by Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien, and will assist the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists & Managers of Australia (APESMA) and Engineers Australia with staffing costs to, “identify future opportunities” for local engineers to become involved in the early phases of offshore energy projects.
In his statement, the Minister indicated this initiative would also benefit local manufacturers, saying:
“The advantage of utilising local engineering and design expertise include the increased potential for other areas of the State’s economy, such as manufacturing, to become suppliers.”
This has been a consistent position of our campaign, with APESMA State President Zaneta Mascarenhas repeatedly pointing out that, “if our major projects are designed offshore, they are far more likely to be built offshore.”
While this funding is a welcome initiative, much stronger action is needed if we are to make the most of the $180billion worth of projects the State Government says are currently under development in WA. The front end engineering and design work has long been completed for the massive Gorgon and Wheatstone projects, and the vast majority of steel fabrication and other skilled work has already been sent offshore.
While the funding is designed to influence outcomes for future offshore oil and gas projects, the State Government needs to do more to secure skilled local work now. Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday show youth unemployment continues to rise in the south-west metropolitan suburbs surrounding the Kwinana strip, reaching 28.1% in January.
If the State Government needs any other driver for strong action, Mr Barnett and his Ministers should pause and reflect on this week’s news that Rio Tinto was set to introduce driverless trains on its Pilbara iron ore operations. The jobs and opportunities being generated, both directly and indirectly, during the current resources construction boom have provided statistical and political cover for governments, as many manufacturing operations have been downsizing or closing their doors.
Rio Tinto has clearly sent a signal that they would like to employ fewer people, rather than more, on their operations. As this trend flows through the rest of the resources sector, both the State and Federal Governments need to reflect on the wisdom of allowing our major resources projects to be built offshore.
So, why we welcome yesterday’s announcement, we urge Mr O’Brien to examine the initiatives of countries as diverse as the United States, Canada, Malaysia, China and the Ukraine, and take much stronger action to support local jobs.