Martin Ferguson, giant of the resources industry

“‘The National Generators Federation would like to acknowledge the hard work and contribution that Martin Ferguson has made to the energy sector.  He was an outstanding Minister who provided stability and leadership to the sector though a time of significant change,’ NGF Executive Director Tim Reardon said.”

“Martin Ferguson resignation huge loss: Australian Mines and Metals Association.”

“The Australian Coal Association salutes a champion. ‘Martin Ferguson is a stalwart of working people and a champion of the Australian black coal industry,’ said Nikki Williams.”

“Resources and Energy Minister Gary Gray today paid tribute to his predecessor Martin Ferguson, saying he was a ‘giant’ of the resources industry.”

I’m sorry, what?

Have I misunderstood the role of an Australian politician? Is it healthy for democracy that the departing Minister for Resources is hailed as a ‘giant of the resources industry’? Surely ‘loyal servant of the people’ would be what we’re hoping for.

What is the role of a Minister in Australia today? Is the role of the resources minister purely to advocate for the interests of the companies in that sector? Or be a reasonable, measured presence, judiciously advocating for the industry while simultaneously clamping down on its worst excesses?

Either way, much as in a game of footy where one side (and only one side) praises the effectiveness of the umpires, the glowing sendoff of ‘Marn’ by the industry ought to raise some eyebrows about the relationship between business and government in Australia.

Moreover, the is the question of Ferguson himself. In his farewell speech, he lauded himself for his work with the minerals and energy sectors, ostensibly due to the jobs he created in his time there. Unfortunately, this man of the people also oversaw a 56 per cent drop in labour productivity in the resources sector, and an enormous increase in electricity costs – costs borne by those same low income families he proclaims to have represented.

Ferguson, who odds-on finds himself serving on several mining sector boards before the year is out, pulling an income that his beloved union workers could only dream of, while effectively lobbying against their interests.

Ferguson, this man of the people, for whom jobs were always a paramount concern received a more tearful farewell from the leader of the opposition than from his own Prime Minister.

If Ferguson truly was a man of the union movement, a representative of working Australians, surely the party of WorkChoices should be high-fiving and cracking open the Veuve Cliquot at his exit.

Instead, they’re shattered.

And I think that speaks volumes.

 

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