Australian PM Faces Uphill Battle in Struggling Mining Heartland – by Rebecca Keenan (Bloomberg News – June 23, 2016)

In the one-time engine room of Australia’s resources bonanza, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s election pledge of creating jobs and growth is ringing hollow for many voters.

An economic downturn in Western Australia and claims the Liberal state government squandered the proceeds of the mining boom are a fillip for the opposition Labor party ahead of the July 2 election. Polls indicate Labor could make its first net gain in the state in almost two decades, loosening the prime minister’s grip on power nationally.

“Where is Turnbull going to get the jobs from?” said Bernadette Heath, 55, at a shopping center in the electoral district of Burt — one of four lower house seats being targeted by Labor around the state capital, Perth. “There are no jobs to be had.” Her 57-year-old husband, Brian, took a 40 percent pay cut in his mining industry job amid the downturn, she said.

Western Australia, whose vast Pilbara region is the world’s biggest supplier of iron ore, is no stranger to boom and bust years. But it’s criticism that state Premier Colin Barnett mismanaged the once-in-a-lifetime commodity supercycle that could prove contagious for Turnbull’s Liberal Party at a federal level.

Barnett, who’s been premier since 2008, rode the crest of the mining boom, as Chinese demand for the state’s natural resources drove unprecedented wealth in the region. Unskilled workers earned in excess of A$200,000 ($150,000) as the world’s biggest miners including BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group ramped up production. Property prices across the state surged, with apartment rents in some remote mining towns exceeding those of Manhattan penthouses.

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