Opinion piece: WA blueprint for mobility
West Australians know, as I do, that mining matters. It matters for the strength of our economy, the position of the budget, for the successful transition of our energy market, and for the jobs of the future. And as fresh analysis from the Commonwealth Treasury makes clear, mining matters for economic and social mobility too.
Mobility is about how each generation is faring compared to the one before it – basically whether kids are earning more and getting better opportunities than their parents did.
Of course, how much somebody earns isn’t everything, and this is just one measurement. But it’s important because it tells us plenty about whether our economy is growing the right way – with secure jobs, strong wages and more opportunities for more people.
Data that tracks the incomes of one million people born in the late 70s and early 80s helps us see how Australia is performing – and the Treasury paper shows that, along with Queensland, Western Australia led the pack for mobility during the mining boom.
So why Western Australia? The success of the mining industry in the early 2010s – with the good jobs it created across the economy – meant that those kids born in the late 70s and early 80s in WA were, by and large, seeing stronger generational mobility outcomes compared to other states.
It makes sense that mining helped improve mobility during that period – because it’s long been a strong source of secure, highly‑skilled and well‑paid jobs.
As our economy transitions to a net‑zero future, and as Australia positions itself as a clean energy superpower, we know that mining will become more important, not less.
We have the critical minerals and rare earths – like lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite – to build the clean energy technologies that the rest of the world needs.
And we have huge opportunities to create new, high‑skill jobs up and along the mining value chain – through processing, refining and manufacturing.
One study predicts that building the critical minerals industry can create an extra 50,000 jobs out to the middle of the century in WA and SA alone – and that’s before we get to the downstream, value‑adding opportunities.
That’s why my colleague Madeleine King is putting so much work into capitalising on this potential, and it’s why so much of the Albanese Government’s agenda is centred on giving people the skills they need for the higher‑wage jobs of the future.
In 2023 West Australians will benefit from more university places and more fee‑free TAFE places, so that more people have a better shot at getting the secure, well‑paid jobs that the mining industry can offer today and down the track.
There will be more opportunities for WA industry to create those jobs – with our new investments in renewable energy, infrastructure and advanced manufacturing.
And a big part of my focus this year will be working on ways to tackle disadvantage that is still too entrenched in some parts of our country – and which locks too many people out of our economic growth.
This is important because no matter where you live, what school you go to or how much your parents make, every kid deserves their shot at a better future. I think that’s an aspiration all parents share – that our kids can get a better deal than what we got.
On this, we’re doing pretty well as a country, compared to many of our peers. For example, let’s compare ourselves to the United States. The Treasury paper tells us that a child born in Australia to parents in the bottom 20 per cent of incomes is over 60 per cent more likely to end up in the top 20 per cent of income earners, than if they were born in the USA.
But we can always do better to help the next generation go further and reach higher.
We know the kinds of things that will help to create jobs, lift incomes and create more opportunities for more people to succeed – backing in job‑creating industries, investing in training and skills, and making sure opportunities are spread across our cities and our regions.
And we also know where we can look for inspiration and direction – to the West.
Mobility – the opportunity for someone to make a better life for themselves and their family – really matters. It’s the reason I’m in this job, and the reason we’re serving as your federal government.
And just as mining has helped improve mobility in the past, I know it can do the same in the future – in Western Australia and across the country.