Day 268 | 78km from Kumarina Roadhouse: out on the (sealed) Great Northern Highway again

93 km | Heading west total: 12,401 km

One of my podcasts that I have on the iPod is a talk by Christopher Hitchens about the 3 Axis of Evil states.

He surprised me by being one of the only left leaning commentators who had come out strongly in favour of the invasion of Iraq: he should know he spent a lot of time there and the talk is compelling enough to get you to start questioning your own position. “The Republic of Fear”.

The FIFO (Fly in fly out) world here in Newman isn’t the same but there’s a strange parallel to another totalitarian world of Communist work camps.

Almost all the workers here are male which leads to bizarre compounds with hundreds of identical beige units: minimal facilities, just a small room with a bed and ensuite, a TV and an air conditioning unit. The work is in 12 hour shifts 7 days a week for 2 weeks, (you get the third week off). The work is fully unionised where you only do what it is you are employed to do: no pitching in to help. There’s guys in utes with stopwatches timing drivers loading the hoppers and registering the data on clipboards, or probably iPads.

I got told of one well qualified truck driver from NZ who got a job to deliver mail around the mine site. When a large truck blocked the road one day he got off his 4WD bike and moved the truck a couple of metres: result, called within minutes into the manager’s office. Can’t do that: he told them to get stuffed, not able to function in the restrictive environment. Maybe that’s why they don’t like employing people over 35.

Food is provided in the communal mess room: small windows and massive air conditioning. The only supermarket to serve over 4000 people in Newman is not open on Sundays. The internet at the library is so antiquated that I couldn’t access my emails. No culture of any kind, except for massive rows of truck and fishing mags paralleling those mags with opaque plastic wrappers.

It is a materialist waiting room where you earn the big money to buy your happiness elsewhere.

Safety is a big issue: all the 4WDs have long poles with flags on the top and which glow red at night.

Safety was an issue when I tried to go on the mine tour yesterday. My closed toe sandals don’t meet the rules: you get out of the bus and walk 20 m to look over the edge of the mine excavation (behind the safety rail). I didn’t argue: common sense, or rationality, are no use when you have inflexible rules. I saved myself $20 there.

I don’t believe BHP missed the money.