Today I arrived in Sydney, Australia. You know this is a strange place immediately: it takes five minutes to get through immigration and one hour and five minutes to get through customs. Enter the USA or Canada and the time is spent getting through immigration and they wave you through customs. Australia seems not to care who comes in; but they are neurotic about what you bring in. Every other country I have visited cares who comes in; but they are oblivious about what you bring in. I stood in line for over an hour so that they could confiscate the sealed packet of raisins and nuts I usually carry to ward off sudden hunger. Obviously things are upside down here.
Then you finally exit the airport into fine sunshine and spy a billboard proclaiming temperatures of 17 degrees. But believe it or not, most of the people are wearing sweaters and many wrap their necks in woollen scarves! In Vancouver they would be in shorts in such fine weather. I suppose it is all relative to the upside down state.
Everybody I talked to, including the cab drivers, know about the proposed forty percent tax on mining–another upside down act in a place that is a simulacrum of Disney Land. Fact is I cannot see why anybody bothers to endure 14 hours in a plane from LAX when forty minutes down the highway is Disney Land. Even the lines are shorter there than the place here where they take away your nuts.
Took the obligatory ride on a cranky old monorail around desolate parking garages and ponds. As I said, just like Disney Land. Then a cab ride to see the opera house. In pictures it is grand–seemingly alone on a promontory out into the water. In reality it is small and cramped and stuck in the middle of another pond surrounded by houses. Goes to show that photos and publicists can lie.
Most are convinced the government will not succeed in imposing the mining tax. Even the cab driver said the proposal to raise mining taxes will cause the government to fall in the next election. At least they will have to change the proposal, for mining here includes quarries—and houses are built of materials mined from quarries and people are beginning to realize that this is a tax not only on rich investors but also on small people who live in houses made of brick and concrete. Upside down?
Contrary to what I expected, the consultants are pessimistic. They do not see a significant upturn in activity in the mining industry. They note there is still a shortage of highly skilled consulting-type geologists and engineers, but not so large a shortage that they cannot find people to come to work for them. And they still have highly skilled people siting around not fully billable. They are rather gloomy in fact.