“Dad, what’s a recession?”
Well son, that’s when your neighbour loses his job.
“So, what’s a depression?”
That’s when I lose my job.
It’s been a torrid time for a lot of folk here in Gladstone. We’re a ‘Rio Town’ now, as the big miner owns pretty much every major industry here, (except for the coal facilities funnily enough).
Yesterday I was having a late smoko at work when I turned on the radio to listen to the news and was stunned to hear that the first story was about Gladstone, and the loss of over 500 jobs in the local alumina industry.
This is remarkable for a couple of reasons.
The first is that the job losses came as a complete surprise to all of us. I work in a sister plant to the Yarwun refinery, and we had attended a communications meeting the day before with our manager who assured us, that as a company, we’re not doing too bad. Ok, things aren’t great, but they could be a lot worse.
Someone asked a question about the future of the Yarwun site, and the answer was a little ambiguous. Most of us have friends or family working out at Yarwun. This time last year it was ‘the’ place to be for a tradey chasing big $ in town. In spite of the lucrative money and the good conditions, workers were hard to get though. How quickly that has changed!
So now 600 Yarwun refinery workers have woken up in town this morning and are wondering what the hell to do. Most of them are contractors, many of them probably came from other parts of the country and are looking to go home now. But many of them were locals who were hoping to make a long term future with the plant, and are now looking at some very scant options.
Of course, some of my ever-practical colleagues had another take on the situation. They were relieved that it wasn’t us, and one of them even mentioned that if you’re in the market for a good boat or car, then you’re sure to pick one up dirt cheap.
It’s a mercenary outlook, but true. It’s like the ghouls who were ringing real estate offices in country Victoria while the fires were still raging, hoping to pick up some cheap property from disillusioned fire victims. Someone’s always thinking of a scam no matter where you live…
The second thing that struck me about the news cast was that it mentioned Gladstone. Several times. This is odd. Gladstone is the forgotten city on the East Coast of Queensland. When we lived in Brisbane, it was assumed that people in Gladstone were so backward that we lived a life akin to that of Fred Flintstone. Now in some things this is true. Particularly when it comes to modern stuff like murder, rape, kidnapping etc. We’re kind of proud of our low profile.
Gladstone rarely rates a mention on the news. In fact we’re usually unable to get a mention on the weather of a night. And while it drives some people here nuts, I kind of like it. While the world spins out of control, we’re here in our little piece of paradise, beavering merrily away. Working and fishing, keeping pretty much to ourselves. There’s a lot to be said for this kind of lifestyle.
Of course the politicians know we’re here, because we’re worth a fortune to the state coffers, but as a city we have continually voted in an independent who has been a bit of a thorn in the side of the govt.
But in Qld, if the news doesn’t happen in Brisbane, then it’s not news. The days of local news coverage are gone. Rockhampton has a local news network, but it’s part of an Australia wide syndicate, and their coverage is pretty much limited to events and goings on in Rocky. Even our ‘local’ radio stations news reports are put together in some other part of the country. So where do we turn to for local news. Well, if you can wait, then it’s our ‘local’ paper which will have the coverage the next day.
Blogs? Haven’t seen another one from this town yet. They’re probably out there, but they’re thin on the ground.
So, while the rest of the country frets and debates about the latest shennanigans and carryings on of one of our ‘millionaire sportsmen’, or brain defunct ‘celebrities’, we here in Gladstone are taking a pretty big hit. And we’ll deal with it in our own way, with a quiet courage.
Makes me feel proud in a sad way.