For many months now, major party politicians and the big business media have sung paeans to the Lucky Country’s luckiest mining bonanza yet, riding the coat-tails of the rapid industrialisation of China and India.
Federal treasurer Wayne Swan told the National Press Club on March 5: “Asia’s enormous appetite for our mineral commodities drives an investment pipeline in the resources sector worth $456 billion.
“But the demand for resources is just the first taste of the economic transformation that’s under way in the Asian Century.”
Paddy Manning wrote in the March 17 Sydney Morning Herald: “Australia is on track to become the world’s biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas, overtaking Qatar, perhaps as soon as 2017 ... In total, well over $200 billion of LNG projects are in the pipeline.”
One of the mining boom’s winners is Australia’s richest person, and the world’s 29th richest, Gina Rinehart.
Forbes puts her wealth at $US18 billion. But that could just be scratching the surface of Rinehart’s potential, the Wall Street Journal said last month.
The WSJ said: “According to a report last year from Citigroup, which analysed 400 of the world’s top mining projects, her net worth could eventually approach $US100 billion if output of iron ore, coal and commodity prices continue to rise.”
And yet there is a growing unease among the ordinary people in this country, expressed not just in opinion polls but in lower retail sales figures. People are struggling to pay off their credit card debts and build up their savings.
This has led to repeated pleas from retail kings Gerry Harvey and Solomon Lew for people to start spending big again.
The Treasury and the Reserve Bank have accused the Australian public of having “gloom-with-boom” false consciousness.
But suddenly last week, there was a change in the wind. Business jitters struck with reports that Europe was headed deeper into recession. Hopes of a recovery in the US may have been a false dawn and the Chinese economy is slowing down. As a result, the prices for Australia’s mineral exports were falling.
So perhaps the public was wiser than the business media and the politicians? While we are all still hostages to corporate greed, we’ve learned not to trust their spin. We’ve learned that we have to ignore their sales pitches and plot a course for ourselves.
But that can take us only so far. We try to prepare ourselves for the next economic storm, but we remain anxious hostages to corporate greed.
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