Keith Wheeler’s Wheeler’s Wisdom | OPINION, March 20, 2017

RECENT American research shows that three million of the once 17 million manufacturing jobs in the US were lost after America cut trade barriers to China in 2000 at the end of Bill Clinton’s Democrat presidency. The group most affected were white males in less skilled jobs. Suicide rates jumped 3.5 per cent in counties most affected by China-related job losses, and drug related deaths rose 24 per cent. These manufacturing counties recorded the biggest swings to Trump.

Now let’s look at what’s happening in Australia. In 2012 Norsk Hydro closed the Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter after failing to reach a long term electricity contract with the then-Labor NSW Government-owned power network. Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley now has unemployment that is three times the national average. Like the Trump phenomenon, 12.6 per cent of voters gave their Senate vote to One Nation in Kurri Kurri.

Just down the road about 30km is the Tomago aluminium smelter. During the February heatwave, Tomago was directed to reduce power for almost four hours. The National Secretary of the AWU, Daniel Walton, called for Malcolm Turnbull to intervene.

"AGL has its hand hovering above a button that could batter the Tomago aluminium smelter and put a wrecking ball through the regional economy,” Mr Walton said in the SMH’s report. He blamed supplier AGL instead of blaming foolish short-sighted Labor renewable electricity policies. We do not have sufficient reliable 24/7 continuous generating capacity. 

Power station closures in SA and the impending closure of Hazelwood in Victoria, plus the mad rush to wind and solar, means that NSW electricity prices will rise, because Vic and SA will demand NSW coal and gas power when the wind doesn’t blow! 

Aluminium is a huge consumer of electricity - Tomago uses 12 per cent of NSW’s power! Labor and The Greens see closure of aluminium production as a way to reduce Australia’s emissions. Too bad about people’s jobs!

Aluminium is the metal of the future for wind turbines, motor vehicles and so on. Can anyone explain to the Australian public (and to Labor and The Greens) how moving aluminium smelter jobs to China, which uses coal-fired power, will save global emissions?

Portland almost lost its aluminium smelter when a blackout last December caused molten aluminium to solidify, crippling the plant. Alcoa is the district's biggest employer with 500 permanent employees, at least 160 contractors, and another 2000 spin-off jobs. It is Victoria's single biggest exporter worth more than $842 million in trade, according to The Age. Many workers with more than 20 years service at the smelter fear for their future once Hazelwood closes.

An Australia Institute report for the AWU said Portland’s closure would cut at least $800 million from GDP. Portland uses about 10 per cent of Victoria’s electricity, so its closure would slash Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions. So The Greens want it closed!

Bell Bay aluminium in Tasmania is powered by hydro electricity - green power. Well, Daniel Walton, Malcolm Turnbull has intervened, proposing a 50 per cent increase in Snowy Mountains hydro. Expansion at Talbingo will be good for Tumut, good for Wagga, and save Australia’s emissions. 

Bill Shorten loves to parrot hollow slogans about jobs. Labor’s policy of 50 per cent unreliable wind and solar energy will close Australian manufacturing and put Australians out of work.