North Australia Digest – 14/9/12

Here is a digest of today’s major stories that impact North Australia:
The Australian
Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan will outline the Asian Century White Paper n Sydney today. Swan is expected to outline policy objectives which will deliver a “deeper and broader relationship” going beyond the current economic ties. WA Premier Colin Barnett will express frustration with the boom bust mentality “and the way that distorts economic thinking and policy at a national level.” In a speech later today Mr Barnett will also say “The more substantive point is that the mining industry and the China relationship can sustain the West Australian economy for decades to come, but not the Australian economy as a whole.”
The $1 billion Regional Development Australia Fund is one of many funds under review as the government looks to cut spending and bring the budget to surplus. The plan was a key commitment made to by Julia Gillard to win the support of independent MP’s Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor.
The Australian Financial Review
Calls from the Greens for tougher rules on Enterprise Migration Agreements have been rejected by the resources industry. The Greens want tougher rules on the agreements to avoid any disadvantage to local job seekers, a move which AMMA executive director, Minna Knight, said would only “add further regulatory burdens to employers who are seeking access to skilled labour markets.”
Iron Ore has given up some of its gains and closed below $US100 a tonne as excitement over the Chinese stimulus spending recedes. Australian miners have emphasised that Chinese steel demand should improve because of infrastructure programs in China.
China has ramped up its global exports of steel in response to slowing domestic demand. In an effort to clear bulging stocks of alloy, market participants are exporting more aggressively to the Middle East and North Africa, sometimes at below cost price.
Queensland’s credit rating has been downgraded from AA+ to AA by ratings agency Fitch. Despite applauding the Newman government’s attempts to restore the state’s finances, Fitch did not think that the state’s fiscal position would improve as predicted.
The process behind the Environmental Protection Authority’s decision to recommend Woodside Petroleum’s proposed $30 billion Kimberley gas hub has been defended by  West Australian Premier Collin Barnett.
The West Australian
After slumping to $US 15,250 a tonne last month, its lowest for more than three years, the price of nickel recovered to yesterday sit at $US 16, 650/t. The recovery has breathed new life into the Australian nickel sector. The outlook for nickel is linked with that of the steel market, as it is a key ingredient in stainless steel production.