Image and text by Nick van der Leek
The engine of Australia’s economy is without doubt Western Australia. The state’s GDP is A$156bn (R1,06trillion), roughly half SA’s nominal GDP. Not bad for a state subentity with just 2,2m people. No surprise then that it is Australia’s most productive state, supplying more than a third of the country’s exports and contributing 13,6% to Australia’s aggregate GDP.
Like SA, Western Australia’s economy is resource-based, with exports ranging from iron ore to crude oil to gold.
The region’s mineral endowments can be summarised briefly as follows:
Number one in the world in the production of bauxite and alumina, 50% of which originates in Western Australia;
Number two iron ore producer, producing 15% of the world’s iron ore needs;
Fifth-largest exporter of liquid natural gas.
Western Australia is huge: 2,65mkm² (SA is just 1,2mkm² ). The capital, Perth, is beautifully integrated with the Swan River estuary , creating a system of pristine park settings connected by bicycle paths, tree-lined avenues and lawns. The streets and urban railway systems are immaculate. Two major arteries in the city centre are for human traffic only. It is obvious from the marina, chock-full with expensive yachts a stone’s throw from boulevards of flash new mansions, that the region “seems to exist in a delirium of riches”, as American author James Kunstler describes it.
Which begs the question : how is all this prosperity possible?
Read the rest here.
SHOOT: The allotted word count for this article meant I could not add a very interesting segment related to Broome, at one time the world leader in mother of pearl production.
Broome is about 2200km north of Perth, and is currently Australia's fastest growing town. The industry nosedived after plastic buttons replaced mother of pearl buttons, but Broome's pearls remain some of the world's largest and most sought after. Interestingly a telegraph cable connected Broome to Singapore and England as early as the 1880's. The town was attacked by a Japanese air raid [a faux fleet of wooden planes was misinterpreted as a real threat] in 1942, killing 88.
The town still has a pioneering cowboy feel about it, just replace the spaghetti western gold fever cliches with an Australian lust for pearls and plenty of dead Japanese pearl divers.