The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s biggest stories, every week. This week, Gorgon workers are out on their feet amid a senseless productivity push, Woodside has a few words for any LNG interlopers and Mark Cutifani has some strange advice for miners who just won’t play along.
Take a seat, right over there
Deep from the bottom of the really dumb barrel this week came news that the slightly less popular brother of Australia’s mining boom, the natural gas boom, still has lot to teach the country about the finer points of running a business. This week we learned about the point at which the mindless drive for productivity passes the threshold of common sense. Turns out once you’re telling people they are not allowed to sit down, you’ve gone too far. Who would have thought? Leighton Contractors staff at the massive Gorgon project in Western Australia have been on their feet lately, after an edict from on high banning all forms of sitting down. The news follows an announcement from showrunner Chevron recently that Gorgon is facing a 40 per cent cost blowout, with poor productivity a key factor. Clearly a desire to limit financial damage has now surpassed the desire to provide staff with the basic human right of comfort. Workers also raised concerns that power outages and a lack of supervisors often left them unable to complete tasks at all. Without knowing the full facts, it seems that the real productivity problem is staff being forced to just stand around in the dark with no idea what to do. But hey, it’s likely those in charge know best. It’s not like the project isn’t running smoothly at all.
We don’t take too kindly
Another thing we learnt about the Brett Voss boom this week, thanks to the great minds at Woodside Petroleum, was that greenhorns in the sector have a nasty habit of buggering it up for everyone, and may even be ruining Australia’s reputation as a worthy investment destination. Woodside chief Peter Coleman has claimed that developers with little or no experience in either LNG or Australia are making cost challenges in the sector worse. He didn’t say that newcomers should stay out of the industry entirely – but hey, he should. Blocking outsiders is the Australian way. In fact, the entire sector should simply let Woodside, who clearly knows what it is doing, take all the spoils themselves. Otherwise there's a risk the sector would be ruined for everyone – especially Woodside.
At least they have a project
Also making a genuine attempt to screw it up for Woodside, and the other partners in the $40 billion Browse LNG project this week, was the WA government. The state has managed to screw up an application to compulsorily acquire the land for the project in the Kimberly – an impressive effort, given it is the government and should be pretty aware of the actual conditions of a successful application. And that it screwed up the exact same thing last year. On the exact same project. In fact, the WA government has been threatening since 2008 to seize the land as legal disputes among native title claimant groups were slowing progress on the project. Now it has been revealed that the second consecutive screw up was based on WA forgetting to tell the tribunal it had made the application. You’d think that, given it was the reason you were applying in the first place, this may have been at the forefront of somebody’s mind. Anybody’s. Surely someone would remember this.
A little slip up
On the bright side, with parliament having wrapped up for the year, it was the first time in months that the air was clear of the stench of slimy political mudslinging. Yes siree, it was a glorious time where we managed to avoid – oh God damn it, the Peter Slipper sexual harassment case. Yep, just like Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership ambitions, this story just won't stay dead, and we were gifted with another news cycle of both parties pointing out how evil and undeserving of their roles each other are. It’s got to a point where any accusation leads to a cacophony of resignation demands. At this point, it’s questionable how much would be lost if they all just resigned.
Don’t believe the truth
Western Australian junior miner Mt Gibson took some stick this week, after AngloGold Ashanti chief executive Mark Cutifani criticised the method the company uses to report its finances, claiming the style, which is used by a select number of mining groups, risked misleading investors. Most miners, when reporting, tend to exclude certain operating expenses including royalties, overheads, interest charges and the like – you know, things those big wig executives like to call ‘costs’. Mt Gibson does not, preferring a more honest, accurate approach to reporting. Looking at it that way, Cutifani’s claims seem like they have some basis – we can’t have shareholders thinking companies are going to be telling them the truth. Mt Gibson’s total costs are often higher than those reported by its peers, despite its profitability being generally similar. Cutifani suggests this paints an inaccurate picture of the companies' profitability. It’s advice given clearly with shareholders’ interests at heart, as its obviously best to avoid confusing their little minds with unimportant things like facts.
– Woolworths has hit back at claims by the ACCC that it wants the autonomy to expand without any regulatory oversight. The group said it had a long history of working with the watchdog, and expects to do so well into the future given its plans to crush all forms of competition Australia wide.
– And finally, Bob Carr has dismissed claims from a Labor colleague that he ran a backstage campaign against the prime minister over the recent Palestine vote at the United Nations. Carr said such is the popularity of the PM right now, he was able to waltz out under the spotlight, do his routine, bow to thunderous applause and exit stage left.