North Australia Digest – 21/12/2012

The Australian Financial Review
Federal Labour MP Andrew Leigh’s comments predicting a rise in commodity prices could drive the federal budget in to surplus have been rejected by WA Premier Colin Barnett. Mr Barnett said the resource rich state could not support the entire economy, despite an 80 per cent rise in iron ore prices since last year. “Let’s go back a little bit. September, October, the federal government was running around, including Wayne Swan, saying the mining boom was all over, and virtually forget about Western Australia, forget about mining,” Mr Barnett said. “Here we are less than six months later, suddenly the mining industry and Western Australia is meant to be the saviour of the Australian economy.”
The inclusion of Western Australia’s Kimberly region in the New York Times 2013 top 46 destinations list has boosted tourism numbers in the region. And while one of the world’s great newspapers has raised fears about the industrialisation of the vast area, WA Premier Colin Barnett says they’re unfounded. “The Kimberley is twice the size of the state of Victoria. It is a vast area, and this government has created four new marine parks, one new major terrestrial park and also spent around $60 million on conversation protection. There has been a lot of debate about James Price Point. I understand that and I respect people’s point of view. But that is a tiny area of the Kimberley – if the Kimberley was the MCG then James Price Point would be one seat.”
The Queensland government has said it expects any uranium projects in the state to be treated the same as other resource projects when being approved by the federal government. Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said all projects should be considered equally, regardless of the political sensitivities. “My view is that uranium projects should be considered like any other resource extraction project.”
Shale gas explorer Armour Energy has put itself forward as a possible gas supplier to Rio Tinto’s troubled aluminium refinery at Gove. Executive chairman Nick Mather said results from drilling in the junior’s licences gave confidence it could meet Rio’s requirements, however he refused to comment on any specific negotiations with Rio and the NT government.
The job losses in the manufacturing sector could be spreading to the resources sector in West Australia and Queensland, according to new figures. Last year’s fall in commodity prices, although partly rebounded, has reduced demand for labour to the lowest levels since the global financial crisis hit in 2009.
The Coalition will use a parliamentary vote to try and force Treasurer Wayne Swan to reveal how much has been raised by the minerals resources rent tax, which some analysts believe is yet to generate any money.
The Australian
Australian mining executives are concerned the mining tax will be expanded to other commodities in the event that Labor is re-elected in next year’s election, with the tax in its current form failing to generate any revenue. Dan Lougher, the managing director of nickel miner Western Areas, said the high-cost environment in Australia and the prospect of further changes to the mining tax was a key issue for his company and investors.”One of our concerns if Labor gets back in is will they change that tax when they see that they’re not making much money, and will they introduce it to other commodities?”
NT Chief Minister Terry Mills is attempting to rejuvenate ties between the territory and Indonesia in an effort to reengage with the regional power and have live cattle trade restrictions eased. “We have an obligation, by virtue of our location and our history, to provide national leadership on engagement with Indonesia,” Mills said on a visit there in December. “Darwin is closer to Jakarta than Canberra is, in more ways than distance.”
The West Australian
Colin Barnett has renewed his attack on the federal government’s minerals resources rent tax after it was revealed the controversial impost had raised no revenue since its introduction on July 1. Mr Barnett described the tax as “the most foolishly structured tax I have ever seen.” Mr Barnett went on to say, “It is a ludicrous proposal. It was cobbled together by a few of the major mining companies with a few meetings with Julia Gillard. It was an unprofessional approach so I am not surprised it is not collecting revenue and it is damaging confidence.”
The Courier Mail
Falling equipment prices associated with the end of the mining boom will save Bandanna Energy up to $150 million in the cost of developing its Springsure Creek coal mine.