Can South Australia, a state conceived in the 19th century and now shackled to a regressive political orthodoxy and failing economy, survive in the 21st century? Yes, but only if two serious defects are remedied, writes Malcolm King, an Adelaide resume writer.
My InDaily stories in the last two years have sought to answer this question by exposing some of the state’s hidden social and economic dynamics. I’ve unpicked the ABS unemployment methodology and found an economy riddled with underemployment, as thousands of men from the working and middle classes bleed out of the workforce.
The stories looked at how casualisation keeps the working poor, poor; how high commercial rents in a deflationary retail environment kill small business; why aged prejudice – against the young and old – is a knife in the back of our keenest and most experienced job seekers.
I examined how the exodus of young people since the late 1970s compounds a trenchant orthodoxy, as self-interest ossifies along generational lines. This creates serious ‘knock-on’ effects, as ‘third class brains’ in the remnant managerial class try, and repeatedly fail, to tackle complex first world problems.
There have been positives too: Sanjeev Gupta bought the Whyalla Steelworks, saving thousands of jobs. The iron ore price recently bucked the downward trend and copper has been on the rise since October last year. That may be good news for mining jobs in 2019/20.
Elon Musk’s giant lithium-ion battery in the state’s mid-north is up and running. There are plans to build a 150MW solar thermal power plant near Port Augusta and a $450 million wind farm project on the Eyre Peninsula. Energy is vitally important but the real story is jobs.
It was said that every family in England at the end of World War One, had either suffered the loss of a loved one or knew of a family that had. In SA, the hope-deadening hand of unemployment and underemployment touches all working and middle-class families or they know of families where it has.
Consider the claims by the State Government that Project X will create 1000 jobs or Project Y will create 500 jobs. These are called ‘generator numbers’ where full-time, part-time and casual jobs are rolled into one figure over the life of the project and then multiplied by a factor of five or 10. The figures are false.
Last December pollster Roy Morgan, who uses door-to-door surveys, pegged SA’s unemployment rate at 10.9 per cent and underemployment at 9.1 per cent. The ABS, which counts one hour of work per week as employment, had it at 5.9 per cent. The ABS methodology is valid but presents a false picture.
The state’s employment and unemployment problems can be summed up with two statistics from the ABS. From January 1997 to 2007 about 107,200 jobs were created in SA. From January 2007 to 2017, 62,800 jobs were created. Those 45,000 jobs have disappeared as large companies moved interstate, went offshore or closed down.
The government and ALP fellow-travellers deny these numbers and they’re not the only ones. Business reports from Deloitte, NAB, Bank SA and university think tanks all state the local economy is showing ‘green shoots’ and ‘climbing out into the light’.
Yet State Domestic Demand is sliding, 102,000 South Australians a year are queuing for food at Foodbank SA, more than 35,000 people cannot pay their electricity bills last year and white collar retrenchment is on the rise.
There must be disclaimers where there are financial relationships between the reporting organisation and the SA government. There’s no room for appeasers in the war against unemployment and poverty.