Western Australia could find itself at the centre of growing international tension over its mineral wealth. And governments aren’t prepared.
Leading Australian demographer Bernard Salt made the prediction at a forum of WA Vocational Educational Trainers in Perth this week.
“The world wants and needs what we have, and there’s going to be a made scramble for all of these things,” Salt said.
“We have what the world wants. That makes us valuable, but also vulnerable.”
Alarmingly, the scramble will come sooner than later.
“Most people are predicting this will happen around 2070, but I think it will come by 2020,” said Salt, who was addressing 200 VET industry representatives in a forum sponsored by the Department of Workforce Training and Development.
“For me, this is the biggest issue facing Australia, and governments are doing nothing about it.
“Look at where our military presence is. We have Lavarack Barracks in Townsville. It was built in the sixties. What’s it protecting now? We have Robertson Barracks in Darwin, which was expanded during the East Timor crisis.
“But there’s no military assets of note between Darwin and Perth – an area that contains pretty much all of Australia’s wealth – about $43 million worth of gas and oil.
“The Chinese have already demonstrated they need the raw materials. Gorgon was about China shoring up its assets.”
Salt was quietly scathing of government inaction, saying while we had aligned ourselves militarily with the US, we expect our financial support to come from China.
“China is now the emerging power, but it remains to be seen how governments deal with the dilemma.”
Salt called for a massive boost to infrastructure, including a larger military presence with at least 5000 soldiers, and a regional town of 150,000.
“It only makes sense to put the military hardware where you are most exposed.
“This is the biggest issue confronting us.”