Speech – National Party Federal Conference – by Mr Tad Watroba, Executive Director of Queensland Coal Investments

by 15 September 2012

Party President, Federal Leader of the Nationals and the next Deputy Prime Minister of Australia,  the Honourable Warren Truss, Nationals Senate Leader  Barnaby Joyce,  Premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, Deputy Premier of New South Wales, Andrew Stoner;  distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for your very warm welcome and thank you for the invitation to Mrs Rinehart to address you, but as you can see you have me instead, still battling with my Aussie accent. You see I’m from Poland. I had to escape my country, which was communist then, to give my daughters a better life. One not only with plenty of food and electricity, but one also with hope and opportunity.

And most importantly,  with freedom.

Yet when I arrived here I only spoke one or two words of your language.

But even if my accent is not pure Aussie yet, I have chosen to adopt this country by choice instead of communism.  I know as I’ve lived under it and never want to see it in my chosen country. In the last few years however, one wonders where our current federal government tries to lead us. There are some scary similarities in actions by some of the members of Gillard’s government and of course the other minority party which the government rely on for support, with those I remember back in my old communist country. The “class war” is a classic example of that. We as Australians must be very alert to that, and do everything possible to preserve our democratic way of life. Not only for ourselves,  but also for the generations to come. So I wish the Nationals the best at the next federal election, when together with the Liberals you need to win, to reverse this current disastrous trend.

On 5 September Mrs Rinehart addressed the annual dinner of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies.  Mrs Rinehart deserves to be quoted regarding the investment climate in Australia:

“We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend this critical investment pipeline is secure, and attack those who explore and invest and risk, but we can’t rationally expect to address the decline in exploration and in the investment pipeline unless we introduce policies to make investments in Australian projects and exploration welcome and enable them to be cost-competitive internationally, and improve the approval risks.”

Mrs Rinehart went on to point out that if Australia continues on the path of making exploration and investment too difficult or even unwelcomed, then resource projects will head to competing countries, especially those with lower costs.    This is not a time in Australia’s history, when Australia is already in record debt which is increasing daily, for us to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is fine. Nor is it time to misrepresent these comments, or politicize these statements via media attacks on the risk takers, the investors, the wealthy entrepreneurs and message givers.

If the political alliance currently governing Australia is unwilling to listen to these statements, and just wants to immerse itself in destructive class warfare instead, then we have a compelling reason in my mind as to why the government should be changed.

Mrs Rinehart announced to the AMEC Conference that Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd will sponsor an annual award for a miner, prospector or other who sticks up for the mining industry, promotes it and achieves a better appreciation of its great  contribution given the importance of that industry and its related industries to the future of Australia.

Here is a lady who sets a great example of standing up for the mining industry, and she is offering an incentive for others to join her.

She hasn’t stopped there, because I know she has made similar arrangements via the Sydney Mining Club,  the Small Business Association of Queensland of which she is patron, and through ANDEV in Northern Australia. With the assistance of the Voices of the North, Mrs Rinehart will make these announcements in the coming months. I just wanted you to have a little preview of these pro-Australia leadership programs, supporting primary industry and its related industries, small businesses and our North in general.

I share Mrs Rinehart’s enthusiasm  for ANDEV – Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision.  It has attracted the support of many talented Australians who share a deep commitment to the development and future prosperity of our nation. You will find more information about ANDEV in the information pack, and I strongly urge all of you, who have an interest in development of our North to join the ANDEV ranks. I would be very happy to discuss ANDEV with any one of you later. You can also talk to our PA, Diana, who has information to share with you. Diana, could you please stand?

In Queensland Mrs Rinehart’s entrepreneurship has led the work of pioneering, investing in, studying and opening up the Galilee Basin.  This great Australian lady really sees the big picture, spurring the creation of three huge mines north of Alpha. After all approvals are met, of which there are thousands, these mines will ultimately  produce 54 million tonnes of thermal coal each year to earn royalties for the Queensland Government, and company and personal taxes for the Federal Government and provide opportunities for many local businesses and individuals.

And by the way, all of the Alpha Mine, which Mrs Rinehart graciously called Tad’s Corner, all of Alpha West and three quarters of Kevin’s Corner, were all applied for and acquired by Mrs Rinehart, not inherited, as the media wish  to incorrectly portray.  And the one quarter of Kevin’s Corner was so far inland then, it had no hope of ever being developed without Mrs Rinehart’s vision for more tenements and tonnage and integrated standard gauge heavy rail and port.

495 kilometres of railway will carry the Alpha coal to a new port facility at Abbot Point. We are proud to note Tad’s Corner, when still a 100% Australian-owned project, was the source of the first coal that was mined in the Galilee then washed and exported to overseas customers.

Some well-known companies have closed mines or shelved projects in Queensland, but QCI is on the move.  QCI has four new tenements granted in Queensland so far and we are busily implementing our exploration projects in all of these.

In addition, QCI is proud to be in new joint venture projects with other keen explorers. Their senior representatives are with us today, may I ask if you’d stand please? People who want to applaud you enterprising people and your companies can wait until I have introduced you all.   Hugh Dai and David Round of International  Coal.  Richie Ah Mat of the Cape York Land Council.  Peter  Meers and Dan Buckley of the Tiaro Coal Limited and Bundaberg Coal.  Peter Lindsay and Mick Avery of Guildford Coal, Megan McPherson and Bryce Mutton of Cuesta Coal and Tony Crimmins of Jatenergy Limited.

And if I can also repeat, none of these QCI tenements or JVs was inherited.

Now you can applaud.

There are six things which we all need to understand about the mining industry and which I’d like to share with you.

Firstly, mining is not easy. Less than one in a hundred prospects becomes a mine.  The typical successful mine has grown out of decades of disillusionment and disappointment.

Secondly, mining is hazardous for investors and hazardous for workers.  I am speaking with knowledge as a former underground miner in Poland where we were working more than a kilometre below the surface.

Investors in mining face more than enough risks without having to worry about being stabbed in the back by their own Federal Government.

Thirdly, the economics of mining are very fragile.  Every day Australian miners face fierce competition from Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa  and elsewhere.  But now we face the biggest threat to our competitiveness that we have ever faced  from newly developing  low cost  countries in Africa, getting ready to unleash commodities onto markets we thought were our own.

In your delegates’ kit is an article by my Chairman: “Let’s Get Back to Our Roots”.  Mrs Rinehart wrote: “the mining pipeline has indeed been squeezed too hard. Australia has become too expensive, taxes are too high and regulations and approval processes too costly and uncertain.”

My Chairman is concerned, but she is not the only executive concerned.

Australian miners are subject to sudden fluctuations in market demand, unscheduled acts of God, and planned acts of the ungodly.  By the ungodly I mean governments who are either hostile to mining or who see mining as the pheasant whose feathers can repeatedly be plucked.

Fourthly,  government which plunders the mining industry are plundering our nation’s future, and investors are rapidly investing offshore. Every day we read now of mine closures, or projects being shelved or delayed yet our government is not listening and thinks the Australian mining industry can continue to be burdened and plundered. The Mining Resources Rent Tax and the Carbon Tax are shocking examples. Future projects require current exploration, and exploration is declining.

Fifth, major new projects absolutely need access to foreign labour to get through the start-up phase. This will allow projects to become operational and employ thousands of Australians who are keen to find jobs for many years in the future.

Sixth, mining has a surprisingly light footprint on our nation’s land.  The biggest threat to prime agricultural land is urban expansion.  The Hon Ian McFarlane when Minister had a detailed study done that showed that all these  mines in Australia together took up less space than hotel car parks.

We have in Australia a hard core of hostiles or communists who hate all forms of mining and who specifically are committed to abolishing the coal industry no matter what this does to those who work in the industry or the impact this would have on the Australia’s increasingly debt ridden and fragile economy. A hard core of hostiles or greenies want to abolish the beef cattle industry starting with a permanent ban on live export, no matter what this would do to the small businesses and family businesses involved.

There we have it, six things we all need to remember about mining.  Mining is not easy but hard.  Mining is hazardous for investors. The economics of mining in high cost Australia are very fragile.  Governments which plunder the mining industry are plundering the future.  Major projects need investment and Australia needs to change its policies to welcome investment.  And, Australia has never before faced such competition from low cost countries with such vast resources.

Australia’s net foreign debt is reportedly $795.25 billion and rising every day. Shared amongst a population of 22,725,000, that makes foreign debt for every Australian an astonishing amount. About  $35,000. Our GDP per person is alarmingly similar. We are almost a second Greece.

Australia’s debt position is very serious.  There is a way out of the swamp of debt, through significant investment in mining and through enthusiastic development of Northern Australia as advocated by Mrs Rinehart and ANDEV.  If anyone has a better idea then I’d like to hear it.

We owe it to our children and grandchildren to lead this nation out of debt.  Increasing the burden of taxation and regulation in our high cost north is like throwing away the map, smashing the compass and taking the batteries out of the GPS.

Mr President, your great Party represents real Australians, people who love this country and work hard and deserve to see the product of their labours.  On behalf of Mrs Rinehart, on behalf of the Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd Group of Companies, on behalf of QCI and on my own behalf, thank you for your outstanding dedication to Australia.

Thank you.

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