Saturday 22 August 2009

Something very odd

If there's one thing Australians are good at, it's digging stuff up. We are world class at scooping up lots of dirt, sifting it a bit and carting it off to someplace where it will do some good.

Although telepresence has made some inroads into mining, there's still lots of people required to either trudge around the shrubbery bashing rocks together in order to find the next El Dorado, or to drive big yellow things back and forth all day like autistic kids on tricycles.

Many of our mines are located in less than pleasant locales. Dusty, hot shit holes would perhaps be more apt. In order for these mines to have a work force, the big yellow machine drivers need a place to sleep, a place to eat, a place to crap, a place to shower and so on. The answer to all that these days is outsourced accommodation providers. Check out the website of this mob.

But it's not only mines that need to provide a place to crash in an inhospitable landscape. Shearer's quarters used to be a feature of many a remote property, although they seem to have been tarted up these days for use by tourists and management retreats. Try doing a search on Google Images and you'll see what I mean. Shearer's have never been the quietest mob, and the quarters were often pretty basic and rough. The last lot I stayed in were on a station in the middle of nowhere. The beds were iron frames with chicken wire stretched over them, and a blanket on top for a mattress. The floors were bare concrete, the walls and roof were corrugated iron, and the doors had a gap about six inches high at the bottom - presumably to allow the local wildlife to run out in a hurry if surprised. That was years ago, things have changed.

That's not my point though.

A mining company can have a town erected on a site in the middle of nowhere in next to no time. We rarely hear of trouble in these places, although they are full of rough men and beer. But on the whole, the are prosperous, if a little short of the comforts of home.

Why then can the government fail to build a fucking thing in similar conditions and locations when it comes to putting up a bit of tin for a blackfella? And why does it cost hundreds of millions to build bugger all?

Actually, I know the answer to the last bit. The government will have taken on a swag of contractors to manage these projects. Let me say I would be surprised if the managers are charging any less than $250 per hour, plus travel time, meal and accommodation expenses and so on. They get paid when they are on the job, regardless of whether concrete is being poured and nails being hammered. You put enough of them on the payroll, and have them bill 50 or 60 hours a week, you soon get an idea of where the buckets of money are going.

You think $250 an hour is expensive? Pfft. Welcome to reality. The hourly rates in my industry are higher, and if I was sent out to Backofboondocksville, my company would be charging all sorts of extras for hardship and so on. Never mind the fact that I am happy to sleep in a swag under the stars and eat baked beans from a can if need be - the government would be billed for a 4 star hotel (or equivalent) and at least $80 per day in meal expenses.

And since travel time is billable for a job like this, I'd base myself in a nice place some hours away from the dump that I was working in, so I'd have done 4 or 5 hours work by the time I arrived at the project site, and would charge 4 or 5 more on the way home.

It's pretty easy to lose 50-70% of your budget on management overhead on these government boondoogles out in crapville.


Anonymous said...

You talk of camps being full of rough men and beer, which is quite true, but fail to mention the little things like six pack limits, 9pm curfews, morning bretho's and random D'n'A tests (drug and alcohol). While many blokes still have the urge to get on the turps, the threat of quickly lost employment tempers them. As a aside, you might think of these sorts of crews to be the last bastioons of smokers, but spare a thought for those who will be working construction on the new Gorgon project on Barrow Island. By necessity on a big gas project all workers have to be smoke free when on site I believe. Times they are a changing!

Mind you, if you read "Don't tell my Mum I work on the oil rigs, she thinks I am a piano player in a whorehouse" there are some funny tails there about smokers on getting by on the platforms.


Anonymous said...

I must have still been tired this morning (I was too tired to comment last night). I of course mean tales, not the waggy type indicated above.