Take a guess – how many people work in the biggest emissions-intensive trade-exposed industry, around whom there is so much debate about carbon price compensation? How many Australian jobs are involved from our biggest polluters?

Well the aluminium industry, including mining, smelting and refining, employs 17,000 people – smelting and refining were two of the biggest recipients for CPRS handouts. So let’s say 17,000 to be generous.

The cement industry employed exactly 1,852 people in 2008, according to an industry website. The steel industry claims to “provide employment” for over 91,000 people, based on ABS figures, but a check of the ABS’s current workforce figures shows “primary metal and metal product manufacturing” accounts for 6,200 workers. Let’s be generous and round it up to 10,000, Alan Jones style, and and assume all of them work for Bluescope and OneSteel.

The LNG industry is harder to assess, but based on an industry publication, current projects employ 25,000 people “at peak construction”.  Again, let’s be generous and assume those aren’t mostly construction jobs that will last a year or two but are long-term LNG industry jobs.

Petrol refining, according to an industry website, employs 5,400.

That means the six biggest emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries between them employ just under 60,000 workers, based on the most generous assumptions.

That’s not a lot out of 11.3m workers. If all of the predictions of the EITE industries came true, and every job, every single one, vanished as a result of a carbon price, it would amount to just half of one percent of the current workforce.

Keep that in mind when the likes of Graham Kraehe conjure apocalyptic scenarios about the destruction of his industry.

At his Press Club appearance yesterday, Kraehe yesterday claimed the current consultation process over a carbon price is a “sham”. Given the process on issues like compensation hasn’t actually gotten under way yet, that might seem a rather tough call. But Kraehe has a different understanding of what the word “consultation” means. For Kraehe, as with many corporate leaders, it’s not “consultation” if consultation doesn’t involve them getting exactly what they want.

Maybe Graham should go check a dictionary. The word doesn’t mean what he thinks it means.

He has extensive, and well-documented, history of making hysterical claims about the impact of a carbon price that aren’t backed up either by objective analysis or by Bluescope’s own statements to investors. They have all of the credibility of their claim to employ 90,000 people.

There was more of it yesterday. Kraehe correctly explained that Bluescope had been hammered by the rise of the Australian dollar.

Two years ago at 70-80 cents to the dollar, we were very competitive, in the top quartile of world steel cost efficiency. Today with the Australian dollar at around parity with the US dollar, Australian steelmaking competitiveness has deteriorated on the cost curve – making it a very tough business environment.

But not once did Kraehe acknowledge that the impact of a carbon price would be far smaller than the impact of the Aussie dollar, which has made the industry uncompetitive. Nor did he acknowledge it would be far less than the impact of further rises in commodity prices.

And big polluters like Kraehe’s Bluescope are getting far more consultation than they did with the CPRS. The Rudd Government had the Garnaut review, a Green Paper and a White Paper before releasing the CPRS, and was then beset by rentseekers. This time, they’re in from the ground-up via the Government’s Climate Change Committee round tables. They’ve even had an early win with Ross Garnaut endorsing the very generous CPRS compensation model for a limited period. It’s the exact reverse of the mining tax.

The real “sham” here is entirely of Kraehe’s making.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.