Why Should The Taxpayer Save Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun?

Until very recently, there has been a sense of unreality about this global financial crisis. The media has been flinging doom and gloom at us like a baby in a high chair with a big plate of bad news, but I can’t say I’ve noticed much belt-tightening out in the real world. Restaurants are still packed, shoppers were as fevered as ever in their attacks on the post-Christmas bargains at the department stores, and the coffee-sippers and lunchers at the local cafe strips are undiminished.

A majority of folk have suffered excruciating drawdowns on their super funds, sure, and those with direct exposure to the sharemarket have been hammered, but in many cases the losses are on paper only. Markets crash and markets boom, and in between – which is most of the time – they fluctuate to and fro rather tediously. That hasn’t changed. The cycles repeat, and in time the paper losses of today will be made up with the resumption of the upward bias that is historically a given. The same applies to the real estate market. In the meantime, though, this current crisis will leave its mark just as the boom has.

BHP’s abrupt announcement last week that they would be closing their mining operations at Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun due to depressed nickel prices and falling demand for stainless steel was a nasty dose of reality – quite shocking, actually, since it effectively sounds the death knell for both towns as thriving coastal hubs. It is likely, though, that this is but the first of many such mine abandonments. Calls for the State Government to bail out mine workers and others who have invested in property in Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun, the value of which has plummeted overnight with BHP’s decision to up stakes, are misplaced. What about others whose property and other assets have devalued due to the global crisis and the flow-on effects of a smacked-up resources sector – should the government be compensating them, too?

As with any investment, when you buy real estate you accept risk in the pursuit of reward. The savvy (or lucky) investors who bought property at Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun prior to the boom reaped thousands of per cent on their initial capital outlay. Others who bought in later still did bloody well. Can’t say I noticed any offers to share these rewards with the larger community. Why, then, should the taxpayer shoulder the burden of an investment gone bad?

If you bought in late and are now stuck with a mortgage worth more than your house, that’s a major bummer, but the timing is part of the risk in any investment. You have a right to expect sympathy and support from the government and community, but not financial compensation.

BHP’s responsibilites are another issue altogether. If, as is being claimed, the company sought to nurture a residential workforce and encouraged investment in the towns on the basis that the mines had a guaranteed life span of 25 years, they would appear to have an moral responsibility, at least, to compensate those whose vision of a secure future in the region has been dashed on the rocks of their misleading advice. Slater and Gordon have wasted no time in positioning themselves for a share of the action, should BHP’s ethical reflexes require a little legal prodding.

As for the way The Big Australian told their workers of the decision – typical Aussie management. In other words, appalling. According to this news report from The Australian, the workers were called to a “safety meeting”, where they were told they were no longer required. Another online report indicated that they were instructed to leave the premises immediately – they weren’t even permitted to return to their workplace to retrieve their personal belongings, which BHP undertook to “send on”.

Why do these fucking bastards in management always do things this way? Why not show a little respect, treat people with a bit of dignity, be straight? Fair fuckin’ dinkum (since it’s coming up to Australia Day), in all my working life I have NEVER experienced good management in this country. They have no idea what it takes to get the best out of their subordinates. Retarded EQs, these bozos.

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  • 10 thoughts on “Why Should The Taxpayer Save Ravensthorpe and Hopetoun?”

    1. As a Hopetoun property owner I don’t expect any handouts for the situation I have now found myself in. I have decided to pick myself up and make the most of a terrible situation. My house will be turned into a holiday home and the best way for people to help Hopetoun now, is to visit it. Hopetoun is a stunning part of the world. You can visit a site set up to help promote my new venture: Hopetoun Paws

    2. Good attitude and good luck to you, John!

      I love going down to Albany and surrounds, but have never made it to Hopetoun. Would be interested, but your rates are a bit steep for me. Anyway, I’m sure you’ve done your homework on that and wish you well in your venture.

      PS: I notice your place is blocked out continuously until July – is there someone currently residing there?

    3. Yes, I have it leased until June but after that I’m on my own.

      I’ll take all the advice I can get at the moment, so if you think the price is too high then most likely others will too.

      I had decided to not charge for extra people and just have a flat fee, but perhaps I would be better off starting low, $100p/n for 2 people and then charging a small fee, say $10, for extras.

    4. Done!

      It’s now a lot cheaper and more flexible. $80 per night off peak and $100 per night peak for 2 people.

      That’s cheaper than the local motel for an absolute mansion!

      Thanks for the advice. Best to start low as I can always lift prices later if needed.

    5. Good on you, John! I think it’s great that you’re actually prepared to consider suggestions, rather than get instantly defensive and dig in to affirm your position as right, and denounce any other as wrong. So many people have this tendency, in my experience (check out the recent comments on my solar PV panels blog). Refreshing indeed, to encounter someone who is genuinely open to the opinions of others.

      With your attitude and flexibility, I reckon you’re well on your way to making a real go of your venture into tourist accomodation leasing. Very best of luck to you!

      I do think your policy is sound. You need people to try your place, then for the word to spread, and I think initially lowering your prices is a good way to get some interest and set up some momentum building. I don’t suppose anyone knows how hard this economic misery is going to hit – it is possible you, and others, might have to lower your prices still further just to lure people to holiday down your way, but for now, I think your asking prices are reasonable. I guess any business must be tweaked to respond to changing business environments, and I have no doubt you’ll be tuning into market vibes and will be prepared to make adjustments as required…up or down.

      I’m seriously interested in staying at your place now…just not sure about dates at the moment. As I said, never been to Hopetoun, and I believe the surrounds are fantastic, so it’s high time to make an effort to see what we’ve been missing out on!

      Will be in touch, and please pop back to let readers (certainly including me!) know of any developments.


    6. Rolan I’ll make sure there’s a cold bottle of bubbly in the fridge for you when/if you arrive and I’ll do the same for anybody else that books and mentions this blog.

      I am actually writing this from Hopetoun Paws, listening to the cricket and Marcus North making his maiden test hundred. I’ve come down to sort out a watering system for the garden.

      When I said that the house was leased until June I didn’t mention that it was empty. The poor family that lived here only moved here in mid December and they have already moved out. To where I don’t know, I’ll see the agent tomorrow and find out what happened to them.

      Fortunately for me the company he worked for (not BHP) has picked up the tab and has agreed to pay the rent till the lease expires. I would be in dire straights if they didn’t as there is no way I would make that family pay.

      It’s hard to imagine the impact this has on people. This family moved here in December and left in February. Their kids would have been excited about starting school and they would have already started to form friendships. The family would have envisaged an idealic lifestyle that would be the envy of many. They asked if I would mind them having a puppy. I said yes, of course. Every kid should have a dog. And then it all just ends, just like that.

      What is it about large corporations that allows them to do this to real people? What can be said about the people in management that hide behind a company name when they make decisions like this? I truly despair for what is happening to families during this time.

      I drove down Roe Hwy as I left Perth and I passed a billboard which ironically was espousing BHP’s achievements in helping to save a particular endangered species. It made me feel sick. What do they care about endangered species? They couldn’t give a stuff about their own kind and yet here they are pretending to care about some poor animal. They couldn’t give a shit! All they care about is their own image and being seen to care about anything cute and furry is a plus in their books.

      I bought into Hopetoun about 5 years ago when I heard what they were doing. The project sounded fantastic. There appeared to be a rare collaboration between government and industry that actually put the worker first. The plant was to be built with a FIFO workforce but once completed a permanent workforce of about 300 was to reside in town. At the time it was refreshing to see a large company like BHP embrace this concept.

      I thought this would be a great example for other companies to follow. It had all the makings of a shift in thinking by mining companies, instead of just take take take, they could actually give something back to society. A town could flourish on the back of what they were doing. Contrast this to Wiluna. At the same time that BHP was closing the Ravensthorpe mine, a mine only a few kilometres from Wiluna and staffed with 300 FIFO workers, closed. Wiluna Shire said the closure would have little impact on the town as they rarely had any contact with the workers.

      This just isn’t right, society in my opinion is heading in the wrong direction.

    7. Needless to say, I agree with everything you express about management and corporations. Seems a prerequisite of CEOs is to rid themselves of any sense of humanity extending outside their immediate circle – and most achieve this with ease.

      As for BHP and their animal rehab marketing ploy – who do they think they’re kidding? None of these big business pricks give a toss about anything but the bottom line (their own and the company’s, in that order). Any pretentions to the contrary can be safely dismissed as solely PR-motivated.

      Thanks a lot for your bubbly offer! Hopetoun ain’t so far to drive with that prospect at journey’s end!

      Big cheers!

    8. Good on you John! I persosnally think Hopetoun is a fantastic place to go for holiday. I spent my chilhood Christmas hoildays down there every year and really love the place.

      Hope your venture works

    9. i recently spent a few weeks touring western australia from perth after staying with geof and hong our cousins doing the 585 klm to hopetoun staying with my uncle and auntie, by the way the pier hotel was fab good people good food and loads of grog, passed thro raventhorpe… toured esprance..freemantle , swan river, being english i kno what you guys are going thro its the same here…hopetoun is a buitiful place the black bream are good eating ….i hope happy days are ahead of you….i shall return to hopetoun end of year

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