North Australia Digest – 4/12/2012

The Australian
Indigenous lives have improved as a result of mining agreements in the Pilbara according to the Chair of Australian Indigenous studies at Melbourne University, Marcia Langton. Speaking to the annual Indigenous Business Enterprise and Corporations Conference in Perth yesterday Professor Langton said some 3000 Aborigines were employed as a direct result of the mining industry in the North Western Australia.
A report released yesterday by BIS Shrapnel, Mining In Australia 2012 to 2027, found labour productivity in the resources sector hit its lowest level in a generation recommending government support to provide a boost to a sector struggling with cost inflation. “Labour productivity in the mining sector is an absolute disaster,” Adrian Hart, senior manager of BIS Shrapnel’s infrastructure and mining unit, said. “While this is partly because construction workforces associated with the investment boom are showing up in the mining-sector statistics, labour productivity in mining operations has simply collapsed over the past decade.”
Global miners will focus on cost competitiveness and project execution next year, a stark contrast to 12 months ago when fast-tracking production was top of the agenda, according to Ernest & Young’s head of global mining and metals, Mike Elliot. In his outlook for next year, Mr Elliot said that while the picture was brighter, the volatility created by the global economic roller-coaster of the past 12 months – and the cost blowouts in the sector – had created a very different operating environment for miners.
Major gas users in Queensland – including Incitec Pivot, Rio Tinto and Xstrata – have stepped up their campaign to reserve gas for local industry by releasing a report that argues their use of gas is up to 70 times more economically beneficial to the state than that of LNG exporters. The report, by consultants AEC Group, said industrial gas use supports, directly and indirectly, about $120 million of Queensland gross state product for each petajoule of gas consumed. LNG projects in Queensland, by comparison, produce between $1.7m and $21.9m in GSP, even when costs of construction are included.
Woodside Petroleum’s major gas investment off the coast of Israel is an indictment on Australia’s investment environment, according to Paul Garvey.  Mr Garvey argues “it says a lot about challenges of the Australian LNG industry that a company would look at a gas project in such a politically volatile part of the world as Israel and not be spooked.”
The Australian Financial Review
The Australian Reserve Bank could return official interest rates to the emergency lows of the global financial crisis after economic data stoked fears of unemployment above 6 per cent, falling wages and a crunch on mining profits. “At the moment it looks like the non-mining economy is expanding at less than 1 per cent per annum and that’s where 85 per cent of the economy is and 97 per cent of the work,” Goldman Sachs Australia chief economist Tim Toohey said. “If you’ve got mining rolling down, and clearly the government is not going to add much to employment, the big driver has to be the non-mining side of the economy.”
Australia’s 2012-13 agricultural crop production will be 23 per cent lower than last year because of an unusually dry winter, according to the Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Science December crop report.
Darwin’s house values have risen more than those in any other capital this year according to numbers released by PR Data yesterday. In the year to November 30, Darwin prices grew 11.7 per cent. Melbourne was the worst performer, its prices falling 3.3 per cent. Darwin also had the highest gross rental yields with 5.9 per cent for houses and 6.2 per cent for units.
The ABC Online
Australia will only be able to export 238,000 cattle to Indonesia next year – 45,000 less than this year – after the country reduced the number of permits available. The WA farmer’s federation president Dale Park says the decision will hit livestock producers hard. “It’s not unexpected but it’s disappointing especially when you consider the cattle prices are rising in Indonesia so obviously supply is less than demand,” he said.
The West Australian
WA Premier Colin Barnett has been supported by his previous critics, the Australia’s Workers’ Union, over the contentious plan to develop the Browse Basin using Floating LNG technology. AMWU WA State secretary Steve McCartney said yesterday, “anyone that supports floating (LNG) is a traitor to their country.”
Aboriginal people did not want to take mining jobs because digging up the land offended their traditional culture, David Collard, a leading indigenous spokesman has said. Mr Collard, a keynote speaker at yesterday’s Indigenous Business, Enterprise and Corporations conference at the University of WA, said the jobs push by mining magnate Andrew Forrest was somewhat misguided. This contrasts with Marcia Langton’s observation that 3,000 indigenous Australians now work in mining in North-West WA.
Courier Mail
Another shot has been fired in the battle over domestic gas supply, with a report concluding large industrial gas users add far more economic value and employment than giant LNG projects. The analysis was prepared on behalf of Queensland’s large industrial gas consumers, including Incitec Pivot, Queensland Alumina, Rio and Xstrata, and comes amid an increasingly fierce debate over the availability and pricing of large-scale domestic gas supply, and calls from some quarters for Queensland to introduce a gas reservation policy.