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Beat HQ Joined: 9th December 2010
Last seen: 5th June 2012

Scott Steensma: WA

Read the business section, check out the job ads, and one thing seems clear - the recession is over and Western Australia is heading back to the top of Australia's economic heap.

Read the business section, check out the job ads, and one thing seems clear - the recession is over and Western Australia is heading back to the top of Australia's economic heap.


Lured by promises of $120,000 salaries for holding Stop/Go signs, the workers of the southern states are once again heading off to the mining boom. And who hasn't thought about chasing the big money in the mines? Who hasn't dreamed about earning the wages of a rock star while doing the job of a council worker? Lean on a spade, smoke a Winnie blue and imagine your pockets stuffed with cash while your neck sparkles with ropes of bling - this is what your life could be like. Thousands have already seized the opportunity and flown off to dig holes in 45 degree heat.


W.A. is the fastest growing state in Australia, with population growth of 2.9 percent in 2009-10, thrashing Queensland's 2.7 percent rise. You may think the figures look close, but if you remove retirees and surfer-hippies from the data Queensland is shrinking faster than a seventy-five year old in a hot bath, whereas W.A. is filling up with fit, steely-eyed adventurers.


The loss of a few nanas and the odd beach-bound bludger isn't too much of a worry for the rest of Australia, but the disappearance of all our tough men and women of action is a problem. In a matter of months, Melbourne and Sydney will be entirely populated with soft-bellied slackers. Many a latte will be drunk, but with no architects, construction workers, or tradies, we will be forced to live in tents, share a single communal toilet and ride horses to work along un-maintained rail lines. A dire situation, aside from the obvious improvement in public transport.


The only thing we can console ourselves with is the thought that Victoria has done all this resources stuff before, and done it better. W.A's mining explosion, when compared to Victoria's nineteenth century gold rush, is less a 'boom' and more a 'quiet popping sound'. During the gold rush Victoria's population more than quadrupled in four years. To equal Victoria's share of Australia's total population in 1861 Western Australia would have to swell to over 9.6 million people today.


Victoria's gold rush was a grassroots affair, with individual prospectors and their families roaming the state, claiming chunks of land and doing a bit of DIY mining. It was a democratic, anyone-with-a-shovel-can-be-a-millionaire boom and it led to the confrontation at the Eureka stockade that has resonated through Australian history.


The W.A boom in comparison is staffed largely with well salaried professionals. In modern mining the pickaxe wielding, frontier type prospector has no place, and neither does the revolutionary spirit of the gold rush. It's hard to imagine modern $100,000-a-year miners parking their BHP trucks in a defensive ring around their company-supplied accommodation to demand a fair go from the Perth regime. The best we can hope for is a couple of angry letters to The Australian calling for the removal of sales tax on luxury four wheel drives.


So breathe easy. As big as the mining boom seems, it's never going to be bigger than our gold rush, or have anywhere near the impact on Australian history. Western Australians may be flush with cash now, but in a few years they'll run out of stuff to dig up and all our tradies will come home. We know. We've done it all before.


In the meantime, could someone call Perth and ask them to send a couple of plumbers over? We're having trouble unblocking our toilet.