The Guardian 18 May, 2005

Woodside goes offshore

John Howard’s backers in the energy industry have unveiled a multi-billion dollar plan to rip jobs and opportunities away from WA families. Woodside Petroleum has confirmed it wants fabrication on its latest North West Shelf gas processing plant, Rain Five, done offshore.

It wants skilled labour on Train Five, as it is known, split between low-wage operations in Indonesia and Thailand. Woodside will then have the plant broken down and shipped to the Burrup Peninsula in kit form, robbing the state of another thousand construction jobs.

Woodside has already sent the multi-million dollar engineering side of the contract to Reading, England, where nearly 200 people are working on it.

AMWU State Secretary, Jock Ferguson, said the “greed” of the energy giant is unacceptable.

“Energy companies are operating as a cartel to deny work and opportunities to Western Australians, and deprive our state of vitally-needed skills”, he said. “The Howard government doesn’t give a damn about local content because it still gets its resource consents.

“But we do give a damn and so do the people of WA. We want a share of the wealth these companies are getting from our natural resources. We have told Woodside we are coming after them and we mean it. Our members won’t stand by and watch WA being screwed by people who have no loyalty to anything except the bottom line.”

The AMWU has established campaign committees in the state’s north west, south west, and Perth. Based on delegates, and members, they are building links with local communities.

Industry analysts suggest the export of Train Five fabrication will cost WA more than 2000 direct jobs, most of them for skilled trades people. Mr Ferguson noted the necessary workforce already exists in WA. Train Four, a virtual replica, was brought in on time and budget, by John Holland and CBI.

He says energy multi-nationals have got their heads together and developed a strategy to cut Australians out of high-value work. They have designated London, Houston and Yokohama as preferred engineering sites; South East Asia for low-cost manual labour; London, Zurich and New York as preferred financial centres.

Woodside claims $900 million worth of the $2 billion Train Five project has been ear-marked for local content.

But the claim is misleading as much of that figure will be spent on civil engineering.

“At the moment, you can’t import holes in the ground. But, given their track record, it is something they are probably working on as we speak”, he said.

The Woodside project is being viewed as a testing ground because other mineral and petroleum operations, including BHP, have similarly large-scale projects on their drawing boards.

The minerals lobby is a key backer of the Howard government, especially its anti-union industrial relations agenda.

Woodside Offshore Petroleum is a conglomerate of Mitsubishi Mitsui, Shell, Chevron Texaco, BP, BHP Billiton and WA-based Woodside — some of whom are players in the aggressively anti-worker Western Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WACCI).

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