North Australia Digest – 31/10/2012

Australian Financial Review
The Queensland and West Australian economies are stagnating due to a lack of labour. Dr Susanne Bahn, Edith Cowan University academic, says not enough skilled workers are migrating across from the southern states due to the ‘perceived high cost of living, but we’ve found in the mining sector that’s not so true because of the high income you get’.
The West Australian government has set a precedent by denying any financial assistance to mining companies, according to a spokeswoman for WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore. ‘Minister Moore’s office has confirmed that no royalty relief has been offered to the company and the request has been denied’, she said.
Tensions are growing within Labor over EMAs for resource projects, after the Prime Minister said she would not act quickly on an internal report urging that stricter conditions be put on the agreements.
The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has asked the Newman government to consider indexing coal royalty increases to inflation. Michael Roche, QRC chief executive, said it would help ensure the viability of more coal projects.
The Australian
Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey says the Coalition has ‘serious misgivings’ over moves by US company Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) to buy GrainCorp. Mr Hockey did not say the takeover bid should be blocked but that it would be tough for the Foreign Investment Review Board to approve because of GrainCrop’s monopoly on the east coast.
Due to the recent slowing in the iron ore industry, BHP Billiton have cut more than 150 million tonnes of ore production from its Pilbara iron ore expansion plans; leading to job insecurities in its labour force.
The Age
The Age also reports on the lack of southern workers willing to head west in the wake of the mining boom.
The West Australian
In contrast, Shane Wright writes of an increase in overseas labourers migrating to Western Australia.
Mining contractors and suppliers are set to come under increasing pressure after BHP Billiton iron ore and coal boss Marcus Randolph hinted at intensified efforts to bring down the miner’s Pilbara costs. ‘BHP is aggressively seeking to bring down the price of goods, largely sucking out the excess margin’, he said.
Increasing costs in a range of commodities are undermining WA’s competitive edge, according to Reg Howard-Smith. ‘Most available measures see that Australia’s cost competitiveness is declining, along with our labour and capital productivity’. (No link).
Courier Mail
The Courier Mail also reports on BHP Billiton’s plan to cut costs from its iron ore projects. BHP added that its West Australian projects remained on schedule and on budget. (No Link).