Open Letter – Let us bring in workers to a Special Northern Zone29 April 2010
Australia needs urgent solutions to avoid an economic implosion, says a group of leading mining and other executives from around Australia.
What occurred in the last mining boom is happening again too fast. High wages due to scarce labour during construction don’t just risk turning companies away from making future investments in Australia – the types of investment that provide long term jobs – they push up prices for everyone else. People not in the mining sector especially feel the pain when interest rates rise in a two pronged economy. These are some of the concerns expressed by this executive Group.
The executive group has called for a special Northern Economic Zone stretching across the North of West Australia, Northern Territory and Northern Queensland, where companies can bring in temporary labour to our remote North for construction periods only to alleviate this pressure. Other benefits such as lowering personal taxation for Australians willing to work and live in these Northern regions is also promoted by this executive Group, to encourage domestic migration to Northern areas, and reduce the pressure on capital city infrastructure and escalating land and home prices. The Group highlights that people living in the North have to endure conditions not faced by people in the South of Australia, excessive heat for long periods of time, cyclones, multitude of snakes, distance from city life and amenities and usually their families, so, according to the Group, should receive additional incentives, such as reduced personal taxation, to encourage more people to live in the North.
The deal Rio Tinto recently signed with Chinalco to develop the huge, high quality Simandou project in The Republic of Guinea, is indicative of future global mining investment flows unless Australia can remain cost competitive when exporting to world markets, says Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd Chairman, Gina Rinehart. “In coming years there will, regrettably, be less long-term mining related jobs in Australia because of the shortage of short-term construction labour willing to work in remote and often harsh areas, and our high tax rates reducing Australia’s competitiveness and because in combination with this, we are rapidly facing losing the freight advantage Australia has enjoyed for decades. This is due to the fact 400,000 DWT ships are being built, and ports are being modified in “our” Asian markets to handle these bigger ships, which will reduce our freight advantage. We must not forget multi-national companies make their investment decisions based on rates of return, and our exports have to be able to compete on world markets, investments aren’t made and our commodities are not bought, on the basis of loyalty to Australia,” Mrs Rinehart said.
Various industries in Australia already make use of overseas countries’ labour without restriction – for example, sending work overseas to India and the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia where labour costs are lower. The group argues mining companies should be allowed to hire short term workers from overseas for the construction periods only, for say up to two years and nine months, thereby increasing long term job prospects in Australia, rather than becoming uncompetitive and these jobs heading overseas to countries like Guinea and other countries in Africa.
Whilst the group expected some resistance initially, they asked to present their argument for policy change that would increase Australian employment, including indigenous employment in Northern areas, over the long run. “Actually we hope for Labor’s support – it would mitigate the risks Australia currently is facing for long term employment, and relieve the pressure thousands of small business employers face whilst trying to continue in business, businesses serving our communities, but unable to compete or having great difficulty competing, for labour with the mining industry. Sure, construction represents a short term boost to employment – but if companies are forced to choose lower development cost countries as they are doing, we can’t rely on our resource base as a “she’ll be right” trump card – these projects and jobs will head overseas to Australia’s detriment. This is about protecting Australian long term jobs, revenue, and living standards for the future. Complacency and lack of action won’t protect Australian jobs, revenue and our future.” said Ron Manners, Chairman of Mannkal Economic Education Foundation.
The group is commissioning a study to encompass these issues and the benefits to the wider Australia of a Northern Economic Zone. This study would encompass too the benefits of removing or reducing payroll tax in the Northern Zone to encourage companies to hire people and other ways to retain Australia’s competitiveness through welcoming capital investment in our remote North.
The following senior executives are supporters of the need for action to protect Australia’s competitiveness and benefit Australia’s economic future and the need for the establishment of a Northern Economic Zone in Australia’s North.
Chief Operating Officer
Chief Executive Officer
Humfrey Land Development
NCS Communications Pty Ltd
TransCoal Pty Ltd
ATI Solution Group
Peter J Fitzpatrick AM
Crusader Management Group Ltd
Chairman of the Port Hedland Community Progress Association
(Nominee for the West Australian Business Woman of the Year)
Pilbara Chair of the Real Estate Institute
Jan Ford Real Estate
United Industries WA Pty Ltd
Merton Group Ltd
AXCEN Australia & China Business
CEO & Director
Humfrey Land Developments
Inputs Pty Ltd
Stirling Resources Limited
Swan Gold Mining Limited
E Com Multi Limited
Thai Australian Resources Company Limited.
Chairman & CEO
Australasian Resource Consultants Pty Ltd
Mannkal Economic Education Foundation
Empire Oil & Gas NL
The Brisbane Line Inc Pty Ltd
Avalon Minerals Ltd
MSP Engineers Ltd
Aspire Mining Ltd
Bauxite Resources Ltd
Fairfax IS PLC
Hugh Morgan AC
First Charnock Pty Ltd & Board Member of an International Advisory Board.
Dennis T R Morris
Director, CBH Resources Ltd
Director, Ivanhoe Australia Ltd
Strzelecki Group of Companies
Bounty Oil and Gas NL
Hill End Gold Limited
Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd & the Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd Group
Reward Minerals Limited
Cape Lambert Iron Ore
Thiess Pty Ltd
Moonraker Pty. Ltd
Austral Dutch Kaolin Pty. Ltd.
Mr Ken Stapleton
MineOp Consulting Pty Ltd
Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd
Wen Trading Pty Ltd
Modern Industries Holdings Pty Ltd
and others, including David Humann, Vince Hyde, Tim Humphries, Nicholas Van Der Sluys, John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart.