2010 Telstra Business Women’s Awards – Mrs Rinehart’s speech given at the WA Awards Presentation Lunch

The Honourable Julie Bishop, The Honourable Robyn McSweeney, 2010 finalists, Alumni, distinguished guests and friends.

I have been asked to share with you some of the special highlights of my year as the 2009 winner of the West Australian Business Women’s Award.

It has been my great pleasure to help other women with the award money I received. The majority of this award money has been utilised in West Australia, and it has been sent to a talented Aboriginal artist, Irene, who lives and paints in the Pilbara. I have enjoyed getting to know Irene’s work, and a  little more of Irene, over a period of years and particularly loved the great feeling for the north-west of our state which she brings to her painting. Irene was very happy to receive this financial assistance to continue her art. Her magnificent painting depicts sunrise in the Pilbara.

For several years I have donated to assist the plight of young women forced into the cruel sex slave industry in Cambodia, the few fortunate to escape this shocking enterprise. Many have been kidnapped for this industry; some were sold into it by their impoverished parents. Thier plight is hard for Australians to even contemplate. The rest of the Award moneys went to establish the “Hope Scholarships”, which initially will enable the four Cambodian girls you can see in these pictures who’ve escaped this tyranny to attend university in Cambodia, paying for all their tuition and related expenses for 4 years. This will change their lives, and help their families’ lives too. I wasn’t able to be present when the 4 girls were selected and advised, but I have been told they are overjoyed with their Hope Scholarships and the ability this enables them to improve their lives.

I look forward to doing much more in the years ahead and those who would like to find out more about SISHA and the Hope Scholarships or like to help please do not hesitate to ask Cheryl or Sue, who are with us today, and helped in these arrangements, or me. Cheryl and Sue could you please join me in standing up?

Thank you.

Another highlight was attending the Forbes CEO Conference in Sydney last month.

The Chairman of Telstra was also present, and it gave me the opportunity to share with her that I will be matching the Telstra Business Women’s Award moneys with my own donation to enable 3 of Australia’s universities to send their Vice Chancellors, including West Australia’s Vice Chancellor for Notre Dame, Professor Celia Hammond, to this annual leadership conference. Next year this will be in Kuala Lumpur, but one year soon, I hope the Forbes CEO Conference will be held in WA.

I am often asked by women in business, what else should they be doing? I suggest attending international leadership forums, if the opportunity becomes available, do so. I would certainly recommend attending the Forbes CEO Forum, and I additionally hope this will also benefit university students by having their vice chancellors attend and hopefully pick up and implement ideas that will assist the education of Australia’s future leaders.

Another highlight closer to home, was being asked to launch the book of a fellow West Australian, Kellie Anderson, called “Truck Gal”.

I was delighted to prepare this launching speech not just because I empathise with Kellie being in a male dominated industry, the transport industry, but because I was impressed with her struggle and determination and persistence to get through a disadvantaged past and pursue her dream – driving big trucks in our outback. An inspiring story from a fellow West Australian. Again in starting your own business, driving your own business to grow, you will need tons of determination, persistence even perseverance! And of course lots of hard work.

Amongst all these highlights of my year, I did manage to get some work done too, and am pleased to advise that earlier this year we welcomed our partners from South Korea into our Roy Hill iron ore project, plus have commenced mining at Nicholas Downs, our ferruginous manganese mine which I have named after my mother’s family, pioneers of West Australia. And we have achieved credit approval and are finalising documents for another $700 million loan for our company group to continue investing in West Australia. I would like to acknowledge 3 leading Australian banks, including CBA, who are helping us to make this possible. Thank you, and thank you especially to my hard working staff.

The growth of our mining industry in West Australia has, for instance, helped to enable Kelly to achieve her dream of driving large trucks in our outback, and other “truck gals” too, as they deliver many goods needed for the mining and related industry in our north.

Too often those outside West Australia forget that livelihoods and dreams depend upon our mining industry and related industries and their growth – think of the accounting and legal industries, the environmental industry, the advertising industry, the trucking industry, machinery and equipment industries, HR firms etc, etc. without having mining and related industry work. Its amazing how many industries would be affected by a diminishing mining industry. Think too of what revenue from the mining and related industry provides for Australians, contributing significantly to our defence, hospitals, police, roads, senior citizens etc, and income from the mining and related industries, spent in restaurants, retail, on cars and boats, travel etc. the continuing growth of our mining industry is simply critical to our standard of living. I would hate to see Australia’s future with less revenue and less income from our mining and related industries, via politics that make investment less attractive and stymie our industries’ ability to compete internationally.

Yet many Australians think we’ll just keep enjoying the many benefits of the growth of our mining and related industries simply because China’s needs are growing. Of course China’s needs are growing, few would argue otherwise. But importantly unless Australia stays competitive in our export industry, we won’t be growing with China as China will increasingly be investing and buying elsewhere. It is critical that we understand this and adapt.

Australia is a high cost country, with both high wages and high taxes, plus increasing government related expense and risks for approvals, permissions and licenses.

We are approaching a cross roads.

West Australia’s high costs have been protected for decades by a freight advantage, but this advantage is jeopardised. Very large ore carriers (VLOC’s) enabling lower freight costs are being built overseas and Asian ports are being expanded, to carry high grade ore from Brazil and in the near future, West Africa. West Africa is a “new frontier” with a mineralised zone stretching thousands of kilometres from Mauritania to Congo, with people desperate to work for less than $2 per day. Australian companies are flocking to invest there. Our previous Foreign Minister, West Australia’s Stephen Smith, reported 300 Australian companies are now investing in West Africa. This alone should be a wake up call. A call for action to make investment in our country more attractive – but just imagine how many more companies will not invest in West Africa given the RSPT shock and looming MRRT, and additional carbon tax fears. If anyone knows the current tally, please send me. This should be publicised every week.

And of course, it is not just Australian companies who are investing in West Africa, Rio Tinto, Chinese SOE’s, Vale and BHP/B are amongst those multinational also investing heavily in West Africa. In approximately five years time, thanks to this investment being diverted away from Australia, high grade iron ore provinces in West Africa are due to commence production, with their very low cost labour, which will very seriously compete against Australia. And West Africa is not the only low cost region where investment is happening and which will provide Australia with increased competition in near future. Nor is iron ore the only commodity which will be affected, other commodities, will be also, but iron ore is especially important to West Australia’s economy.

We are left with precious little time to adapt, and with diminishing freight advantage protection. We must bear in mind what happened to Australia’s, USA’s and Europe’s high cost manufacturing industries when lower cost countries such as a China and India exported lower cost manufactured items.

Our company has started ANDEV, Australian for Northern Development and Economic Vision, and I am delighted to say that amongst our ANDEV executives is the Chairwoman of the Port Hedland Progress Association, who has been at the forefront of similar ideas to improve the future of the area she lives in, plus other active women and concerned executives.

Briefly we are proposing lessening the costs of taxation and risks of imports initially in our North to make investment more welcome. Our website and contact details are showing on the screen for more information.

ANDEV started just before the RSPT and we were very active against the RSPT. We remain concerned and active regarding aspects of the MRRT making future Australian projects less attractive such as financing cost deductibility and important infrastructure aspects.

Our future competitiveness and living standards are not just matters that should be left to men, and I urge concerned women to at least support ANDEV, be it with your time and/or financial assistance. New members are very welcome.

If I may finish with one more highlight story.

I attended part of a recent conference in Perth which hosted international and Australian speakers, primarily organised by the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, with assistance from friends, including the IPA and myself.

I was really delighted to meet university students, eager and enthusiastic and intelligent young girls who had been selected and sponsored to attend. I have been inspired by these girls and other ones I met at earlier Mannkal Economic Education forums. With such youngsters in our midst, a great future should be possible! They inspire me to keep trying to leave a better West Australia for our next generation. Let’s keep making our State better and better.

Many thanks to the Awards sponsors and organisers. Very best wishes to each of the outstanding finalists today, and warmest congratulations for what you have already achieved.

To my successors or successor, I hope you enjoy the year even more than I have.

Best wishes and God Bless.