Ride on, Australia's Rinehart Cowgirl!
Greens deplore Gina's greed
Not only is she now the world's richest woman, Australia's Gina Rinehart may soon out-rank all masculine competition and become the wealthiest two-legged creature on planet earth.
What's more, she's persuaded the government to allow importation of foreign labour for her flagship Roy Hill iron mining venture in the Pilbara - much to the chagrin of trade unionists.
More ordinary visitors - such as Papua New Guineans - may face "torture" in applying for visas to Australia, eventually never making it across the border.
Not so, Ms Rinehart - clearly both the country's poster girl and now a National Treasure.
Just this week, she and an Indian partner got the go-ahead for what the Australian Green Party claims will be the largest coal mine in the country.
Greens spokeswoman, Senator Larissa Waters, is demanding Ms Rinehart "reveal if she will seek approval to import foreign workers" to man the Alpha mine, adding:
"This is another destructive environmental decision...which will line the pockets of Australia's richest woman and the Indian conglomerate that owns 79 per cent of the company.
"[The] mine would add to the massive dredging, dumping and shipping which is turning the Great Barrier Reef into a coal superhighway, as well as see thousands of hectares of high-value habitat lost."
Rinehart named world's richest woman
AAP, with a staff reporter
23 May 2012
Gina Rinehart is now the richest woman in the world, with an estimated fortune of $29.17 billion, according to BRW magazine's 2012 Rich 200 list.
Her $29 billion mining fortune is $3 billion greater than Christy Walton's, the widow whose inherited wealth springs from the US retail giant Wal-Mart.
Rinehart has ridden Australia's resources boom like no one else, her wealth ballooning by an unparalleled $18.87 billion in the past year, according to the magazine's annual rich list.
That equates to $1,077,0540 every 30 minutes of every day.
The gargantuan increase flows from foreign investment in new projects, increased production and a recovery in the iron ore price over the past six months, BRW says.
And much more could be on the way.
"If the demand for natural resources remains strong, additional multi-billion mines are almost inevitable," said BRW Rich List editor Andrew Heathcote.
"There is a real possibility that Rinehart will become not just the richest woman in the world but the richest person in the world."
That title is currently held by Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim Helu, with $69 billion.
"A $100 billion fortune is not out of the question for Rinehart if the resources boom continues unabated," said Heathcote.
Three of Rinehart's four children - John Hancock, Bianca Rinehart and Hope Welker - launched a lawsuit against their mother last September in a bid to oust her as trustee of the multibillion-dollar family trust established by her late father Lang Hancock.
Unlike many wealthy heirs, Rinehart has not just maintained her fortune but multiplied it many times over.
When she made her debut on the rich list after her father's death in 1992, her net wealth was estimated at $75 million.
Now she is worth 386 times as much.
Unions lash out at foreign labour plan
25 May 2012
Union leaders have lashed out at a federal government skilled migration plan that will allow mining magnate Gina Rinehart to bring in 1,700 foreign workers, saying it is a kick in the guts for Australian employees.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced on Friday the government program to allow enterprise migration agreements (EMA) would help mining companies find enough workers for their developments.
But union leaders, who were attending a government manufacturing taskforce meeting in Canberra, were furious.
Australian Council of Trade Unions leader Dave Oliver said it was "reprehensible" and Australian workers were being overlooked.
"We are calling on the prime minister to immediately intervene to ensure before any workers are being brought in under the 457 visa program that there has been appropriate measures in place to ensure that the local market has been tested," he told reporters.
Australian Workers' Union head Paul Howes said it beggared belief that the announcement was made in the wake of recent jobs losses at Qantas and the Norsk Hydro aluminium smelter in NSW.
"On Friday we come to Canberra to meet with the prime minister, the industry minister and the CEOs of the major manufacturing industries to address the 130,000 jobs that have been lost out of manufacturing since 2008," a clearly angry Mr Howes told reporters.
"And Chris Bowen is announcing that Gina Rinehart gets an early Christmas present.
"I thought we were actually attacking these guys at the moment. Whose side are we on?"
The first EMAs have been granted to Ms Rinehart's Roy Hill project in Western Australia's Pilbara region.
Mr Howes said it was a big win for Ms Rinehart, and the benefits would also be enjoyed by her fellow mining billionaires Clive Palmer and Andrew Forrest.
"It's a massive kick in the guts to those 130,000 workers in the manufacturing industry who have lost their jobs," he said.
It's "sheer lunacy", he added.
The union movement will now pressure Prime Minister Julia Gillard to set up a job register, as promised by Mr Bowen on Friday, and make it mandatory to advertise locally for workers before importing foreign labour.
Gray tells unions to accept EMAs
Unions will have to put up with the federal government's new enterprise migration agreements (EMA) because the decision has been made, Special Minister of State Gary Gray says.
More than 1700 foreign workers will be allowed for the peak construction phase at Roy Hill, which needs 8000 workers to build.
Mr Gray said some of the 2000 people that Hancock Prospecting would train in exchange for being allowed to import workers would be covered by the EMA "but most will be Australian".
The EMAs were a mechanism to get up major projects that were significant to the national economy in time to meet market demand, he said.
"If we were to sit back ... the risk is that we will miss that market and we will end up in future generations with lots of rocks that no-one wants," Mr Gray told a business panel discussion in Perth.
"The unions and other stakeholders have had their say and the government has made its call - end of story.
"If we don't get this EMA in place, this project won't get built on time and on budget, and if we don't get it built on time and on budget, we will not bring millions of tonnes of iron ore to market to support our economy."
Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt told the function he was concerned the foreign workers would build up their skills and then promptly leave Australia while Liberal senator Eric Abetz said he supported EMAs "in principle ... if for the reasons Gary announced".
"We'll reserve judgment in relation to the fine print," Senator Abetz said.
Mining magnate Clive Palmer said it was important to support nationally significant projects with expected lives of 30 to 40 years because benefits would flow through to improve the nation's standard of living.
"If we don't do something like this, we won't have any jobs at all," Mr Palmer said.
"We need to get on with the job. We've got to get rid of all this bloody rubbish that stops us competing."
Govt announces EMA deal with Rinehart mine
25 May 2012
Mega mining projects will be able to boost their skilled workforce from overseas under a new government immigration program.
The first enterprise migration agreement (EMA) will affect Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill Project in Western Australia's Pilbara district, with both parties due to sign the documents shortly.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen announced the EMAs, which will help mining companies source enough skilled workers to complete new projects on time and to budget.
"At the same time, EMAs will create jobs and training opportunities for Australians, because without them there's a real risk that some large projects simply won't proceed," he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Friday.
Mr Bowen said the $9.5 billion Hancock Prospecting iron ore project was expected to produce 55 million tonnes of iron ore each year for 20 years from late 2014.
Hancock could sponsor up to 1715 workers for the three-year construction phase through the 457 visa program if the company is unable to find Australians to fill occupations such as electricians, mechanical fitters, scaffolders and boilermakers.
"The EMA set out protections to ensure that visa-holders engaged on the project receive the same wages and conditions as their Australian counterparts and that those workers are protected under Labor's Workplace Act," he said.
The government would establish a Jobs Board so that positions from the project were filled first with Australians and the recruitment of foreigners would occur only after genuine efforts to employ locals.
Mr Bowen said Roy Hill would provide up to 2000 training places for Australians.
"This includes places for more than 200 Australian apprentices and trainees, as well as preparing over 100 indigenous Australians to work in the construction industry.
Another immigration program would be the introduction of a significant investor visa, along with several reforms to the Business Skills program to commence from July 1, 2012, Mr Bowen said.
"The new significant investor visa will be available for people who invest at least $5 million in Australia in either state and territory bonds, Australian Security Investment Commission regulated managed funds or direct investment in Australian companies," he said.
This program would have a comparatively small number of people with their investments offering a disproportionate boost to the Australian economy.
Australia you are not a good friend
Martyn Awayang Namorong, Opinion
Sydney Morning Herald
24 May 2012
Papua New Guineans are sick and tired of Australia's attitude to them.
I'M ON my first visit to Australia right now - and what an introduction to your country. A two-week run of four major cities where I'm meeting politicians, journalists and ordinary Australians.
I'm trying to help foster a relationship between Papua New Guineans and Australians beyond business, politics, diplomacy and academia.
After all, PNG is a lot more than the Kokoda Track and birds of paradise. We're a nation of 7 million people who aspire to be better than we are.
The relationship between my country and Australia is complex. You were once our coloniser. You created institutions: Western democracy on our behalf - a Westminster-style parliament, a free press, a fairly robust judicial system, university education - and modern commerce and a working infrastructure. All on our behalf. And yours too, let's be honest.
Campaigning is under way in PNG for the general election. When Australia thought the election might be delayed, it spoke patronisingly to us and got a telling off for its trouble. When the Papua New Guinean people thought it might be delayed, we marched in the streets and got an election. The message is clear - as a people, Papua New Guineans might just be a bit better and more effective than Australians think we are.
There are some other issues between Australia and PNG that need to be addressed
When you get to PNG and land at Jackson airport in Port Moresby, you can buy a visa at our front door and we let you in. When we want to come to Australia, we are regarded as potential absconders and the visa process is a torture. I know people who couldn't even visit Australia for weddings and funerals of relatives.
Papua New Guineans do not present a major overstayer issue for Australia. We really do love the country we come from, despite its faults and privations. And we don't like being treated like potential criminals when we want to visit your place.
PNG is geographically closer than New Zealand and all other neighbours of Australia. Yet Australians don't see boatloads of Papua New Guineans heading down south. We have a strong attachment to our ancestral lands and as such we prefer living on our land. Yet the treatment we get for wanting to temporarily visit Australia is perhaps based on a lot of Australian prejudice.
This sort of treatment of Papua New Guineans also extends to the arena of business.
In my home of Western Province, BHP Billiton is responsible for the destruction of the Fly River by Ok Tedi mine, an environmental disaster of world-scale proportions.
Australian gold miner Newcrest dumps mine wastes into the sea around the island of Lihir in the north-east of Papua New Guinea. Newcrest also has a 50 per cent stake in Morobe Mining's Hidden Valley project that has been blamed for fish deaths in the Markham River.
Papua New Guineans are becoming increasingly weary of Australian attitudes towards us. As the Australian government pursues its trade agenda with PNG and other Pacific Island nations, we Papua New Guineans are concerned about the likelihood of further exploitation of our people by your government and businesses.
We protected and cared for young Australian men during World War II. We have also developed many friendships with Australians. But we are not happy with Australia's attitude to us.
I don't know if you've heard the expression ''boomerang aid'' - it's got a real Aussie ring to it, hasn't it? A lot of the half-billion-dollar-a-year aid you give to PNG boomerangs right back to Australia - as consultants' fees or for the purchase of goods and services.
Australia's development agency, AusAID, has invested in training and equipping PNG police. While maintaining law and order is a critical issue in PNG, recently serious and credible allegations have emerged of police being retained by resources companies and acting inappropriately against protesting landowners.
There have been some excellent Australian aid projects in Papua New Guinea but you need to know the truth - most of the aid money doesn't get to where it could do the most good: the provision of better health services; better roads; you know the list.
PNG's increasing engagement with China is in many ways a rejection of Australia due to Australia's failure to be a good friend since independence.
I do not suggest for a moment that it is not possible for our land to be used for other than traditional purposes. But this must happen with our informed consent and approval.
Australia has been good to my country - and I think my country has been good to Australia. You are, by and large, a benign neighbour. But there is such a concept as benign neglect.
We need a more understanding relationship with Australia. And that means you must adopt a more engaged and intelligent approach to Papua New Guinea and its people.
Martyn Awayang Namorong is an award-winning writer and blogger on PNG politics and a social activist.
Alpha coal project given green light
29 May 2012
The first coal mine to be built in Queensland's resource rich Galilee Basin has been given the green light.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney says the state's coordinator-general has given approval with 128 conditions for the $6.4 billion Alpha coal project.
Mr Seeney said the GVK-Hancock Coal project, part owned by billionaire miner Gina Rinehart, will inject an estimated $11 billion to the economy during the mine's three-year construction phase.
Construction will create 3600 jobs and there will be almost 1000 permanent jobs once the project is complete, he said.
Mr Seeney said the mine is expected to export 30 million tonnes of coal annually.
"The predicted flow on benefits to the state, the nation and to every Queenslander are immense," he told parliament.
"Over the projected 30-year life of the mine, an estimated $83 billion in exports, around $3 billion annually, will be (earned)."
Mr Seeney said the approval followed a four-year process involving a comprehensive environmental impact statement, and will be subject to environmental conditions.
Greenpeace said it would fight the project, which still requires federal approval.
The group's senior campaigner John Hepburn said the mine would undermine efforts to limit global warming to two degrees or less.
The burning of coal from the mine, at peak capacity, would result in 65 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, he said.
"This is equivalent to the emissions from 18 million Australian cars or 11 per cent of Australia's 2010 domestic emissions."
Mr Hepburn also said Ms Rinehart would be seeking to use foreign workers for the mine.
Comment is being sought from GVK-Hancock Coal.
The Greens said the approval was devastating news for the climate, the Great Barrier Reef and communities suffering cost-of-living pressures from the mining boom.
Greens spokeswoman Senator Larissa Waters said Ms Rinehart must reveal if she will seek approval to import foreign workers to man the mine.
"This is another destructive environmental decision by Premier Newman which will line the pockets of Australia's richest woman and the Indian conglomerate that owns 79 per cent of the company," she said in a statement.
"As Australia's largest coal mine, this mine would add to the massive dredging, dumping and shipping which is turning the Great Barrier Reef into a coal superhighway, as well as see thousands of hectares of high-value habitat lost."
She said the federal government must stop the mine going ahead.
Unions speak out
Unions fear Australian workers won't benefit, after the federal government approved Ms Rinehart's bid to staff her Roy Hill iron ore project in Western Australia with 1700 foreign workers.
GVK's vice-chairman GV Sanjay Reddy, who is spearheading the project, said while Australian workers were a priority, foreign worker visas were "good insurance".
"Our priority is offering locals and other Australians the opportunity to work on these projects," he told AAP in a statement.
"Last year, the federal government invited us and other major companies to look at EMAs (Enterprise Migration Agreements), but we need to review them with contractors and will consider the issue over the next few months.
"We have not applied for EMAs but with large numbers required for the construction phase, we see them as a good insurance."
Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) president John Battams believes tens of thousands of Australians want mining work but are turned away because they don't have the skills needed.
He says labour shortages are set to be a huge issue in Australia, with a taskforce predicting a shortfall of more than 30,000 tradespeople in the mining sector between 2010 and 2015.
"The company must be able to show that all efforts have been taken to employ Australians, and particularly Queenslanders, who want to work on that project," Mr Battams told AAP.
Alpha's mayor Rob Chandler says the council has been negotiating conditions with GVK-Hancock for four years.
"They have told us they will be supporting Queensland and Australian workers first," Mr Chandler said.
He said they have also promised to pour $30 million into local infrastructure, including a new pool, airport upgrades, a new ambulance and paramedics.
But all levels of government need to work together to mitigate the effects mining booms have on communities.
"There are massive challenges attached to large-scale mining," Mr Chandler said.
"It's all about planning to avoid the mistakes made in other mining communities."
He wants mining companies to fund affordable housing projects to ensure non-mining workers can afford rent.
The federal government will have the final say on the project's future, and green groups say it should stop it.