North Australia Digest – 27/11/2012

The Australian Financial Review
Australia could underachieve in the Asian century due to high costs and falling productivity according to Ian Bauert, the head of Rio Tinto’s China operations. As Chevron said more than $100 billion in LNG investments in Australia “hang in the balance”, Mr Bauert said Australia had become the miner’s most expensive place to do business after being the cheapest five years ago.
The Queensland government has called for expressions of interest to develop its lucrative bauxite leases in Cape York. The preferred bidder for the Aurukun leases – which comes on top of the Newman government’s decision to give the green-light to uranium mining next year – is expected to be announced by the end of 2013.
The Australian
Ian Bauret, Rio’s head of China Operations, has attacked those who believe the days of solid Chinese growth are over. Speaking at the ‘In the Zone Conference 2012’ in Perth yesterday, Mr Bauret said China’s rapid rate of urbanisation would drive resources demand for decades to come.
Roy Krzywosinski, the local head of US energy giant Chevron, has warned that $100 billion worth of resources investment is at risk due to soaring costs and declining confidence in the federal government’s policy settings. “Industry confidence in making major capital investments is being affected by the current fiscal environment,” Mr Krzywosinski said.
The Courier Mail
The Lake Eyre Basin wild rivers listing could be dumped by mid next year, opening up the area to irrigated farming. Large scale irrigation for crops such as cotton will not be approved under the plan, but lower impact proposals such as grapes, fodder and dates will be considered.
The West Australian
One of the most influential agribusiness leaders in Australia, David Lock, has played down suggestions Australia could become a food bowl of Asia. The chief executive of Craig Mostyn group said that although the outlook for agriculture was positive, “I don’t share the optimism of those who say Australia will be the food bowl of Asia. I think Australia is a small producer of food and it will be a producer of niche products that are typically expensive and high quality.”
WA Premier Colin Barnett has warned an offshore floating liquefied natural gas facility will pose more environmental risk than a land based facility at James Price Point. It has been mooted that Shell will use floating technology at the Browse site in order to cut costs and appease protesters. “The environmental risk would be enormous (as would) the safety risk of trying to evacuate staff from a facility like that,” he said.