Personal Reflections: Andrew Forrest’s 50,000 indigenous jobs

05 Aug

Jim Belshaw noted this yesterday; I was intrigued by  the presentation of the idea on Lateline last night. You may also read an interview with Andrew Forrest on Radio National’s PM, where there is a link to an extended interview you may listen to.

MARK COLVIN: Already there have been critics within the Aboriginal community and Reconciliation Australia has suggested, least implied, that there maybe a level of unrealism in what you’ve done, there’s been criticism that you’re overly ambitious. How do you answer that?

ANDREW FORREST: We would expect that because we’ve had 150 years of failure and there’s all, you know as the great man said to me yesterday, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” We’ve never had before, and Reconciliation Australia and all these other excellent organisations have never had before, an Australian employment sector, a corporate sector, which is simply had enough of watching the welfare system fail, and it said to me, en masse, let’s do something about it.

MARK COLVIN: Over the last few days, you’ve heard people talking about some of the barriers to all this that it’s very difficult to get people to move out of their traditional communities to go to work. Those have been barriers in the past, both for Aborigines and for employers. How do you overcome them?

ANDREW FORREST: I would like to live where I originally grew up in the Pilbara, and certainly I would one day like to have a house in Thredbo. But I’m not just going to go and live in Thredbo because it happens to suit me, I’m going to have to get a job, get real employment, earn the money and pay for it. Then I’m very happy to have my holiday house in the Pilbara or at Thredbo.

But in the meantime, like every other Australian, I’ve got to be prepared to work for it. As Noel Pearson says, “If you give people a small grant like, you know, the ability to catch a train to go and train.” And he coins it, “Train to train”, then we have a situation where people know the practical reality of employment, even necessarily choosing that you live exactly where you want to. You need to go to where the jobs are.

That is the situation and Aboriginal people who I have spoken to, have said to me, “Well, we’re prepared to move, Andrew, but why would we move when we actually don’t have a guaranteed outcome. We will go somewhere, we’ll leave our home, we’ll leave our families, or we’ll risk taking our families with us, but why would be take that risk and relocating our families to where the employment is, if there’s no jobs there?” Well now we can answer, “Yes, there will be a job for you, yes, you can come with your families, and yes, you can take control of your own life.”

MARK COLVIN: In business, you set yourself targets, actually you set yourself very big targets, but you’re also, you accept being benchmarked to being judged on how well you’ve reached those targets. You were talking about 50,000 jobs. When are you prepared to be judged on results?

ANDREW FORREST: Well I have to admit to you that my original target was a little higher than that and I worked with industry economists, my own colleagues, people in the Aboriginal employment industry, and we settled the target of 50,000 because it was, while it was very seriously outside all our comfort zones, we believe because of the expression of great will and wonderful heart, the generosity of Australian spirit, which we’ve seen in the corporate and the national employment sector, that 50,000 was achievable now.

I’ve shared with the Prime Minister privately that we would have crack at this as an internal target within two years. But I would say to you, that is a very steep target, and if we did it in longer than that, I’d think the result would be outstanding. We would have changed as an Australian nation of employers, the course of social history for our Indigenous brothers and sisters.

It does seem that Kevin Rudd may be on side. It may be a way forward; let’s listen carefully.

There’s a 2002 interview on Four Corners:

I want to go to indigenous issues, George McDonald has said you changed what the mining industry has seen as a problem to a win, how did you do that?

Ticky I grew with and amongst Aboriginal people and for most years of my early life counted them amongst my best friends. It was easy for me when confronted by a range of political and legal issues which were divisive to Aboriginal people, not so much where the media concentrates which is the division between the Aboriginal community and the mining industry but it was terribly divisive amongst the Aboriginal people. I quite literally move my family up into the goldfields and we sat down and we talked and we got to know all the Aboriginal participants on a personal basis and I still count them as friends and then it was from that point quite easy to determine what they wanted and the vast majority did not want to use the native title law as a get rich quick scheme, most Aboriginal people wanted to work with the mining community and if it took the native title law to help companies see the huge sense in that, then that’s a good thing but we as Anaconda had already resolved we are going to work with the Aboriginal community, its chief executive spoke some Yamigee language, I had a team of people with me who were very compassionate, who were determined to work with the community and it really was not a difficult exercise to then become friends with the Aboriginal community and hear from them what they wanted and wherever we could deliver it for them.

So what did you then create?

We created a total integration of their community with ours, we awarded them major contracts and then helped them deliver those contracts, we got involved in training to a very considerable degree of Aboriginal people and during construction you had literally dozens I think it topped at about 100 Aboriginal people at any one time working in the construction and operations of Anaconda and then we took an extra step which we weren’t asked to do but have been applauded for and that’s creating what’s being called the outback university which has also been referred to as probably the most successful private initiative to train and give gainful employment to indigenous people.

There’s much more on other matters there too.

Not relevant directly to his proposal, of course, is another story about Forrest in today’s Australian: Short sellers hack into Forrest. Sirdan may be interested in that one, as short selling was one of the things we were discussing yesterday.

IRON ore tycoon Andrew Forrest is under attack from international hedge funds in a co-ordinated short-selling blitz against his Fortescue Metals Group — a campaign that has caused the company’s stock, and the executive’s paper fortune, to slump by more than 37 per cent in just over a month.

The company’s broker, Southern Cross Equities, has sent a note to clients that leaves no doubt as to why it considers the stock has fallen: “FMG shares have been subject to an aggressive and co-ordinated shorting campaign from a high of $13.15.”

The stock went as low as $7.91 on Tuesday but by Thursday had rebounded to a $8.70 close on a day of particularly heavy trading, with 45.5 million shares going through.

Then the price fell 43c on Friday after the temporary stranding of an ore carrier in the Port Hedland shipping channel — a problem rectified at high tide.

The Australian has separately confirmed from reliable sources that several overseas hedge funds are short-selling Fortescue shares, mostly on the basis that they consider Southern Cross’s prediction of a continuing shortage of iron ore in the world in 2013 to be too optimistic.

The short sellers declined to be identified.

Shorting involves selling shares that traders have borrowed, but do not own, with a view to buying “back” the stock at lower prices later.

Charlie Aitken, head of institutional dealing at Southern Cross and a long-term champion of the stock and its founder Mr Forrest, says in a client note that during the volatile period “absolutely nothing changed fundamentally for FMG”…

I’m afraid that is all beyond me, but Sirdan has been taking an interest.

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Posted by on August 5, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, current affairs, Indigenous Australians, Jim Belshaw, Kevin Rudd, Sirdan


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