In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins discusses a new paper from the Australia Institute on the case to slow down the mining boom. I may be biased, but I thought we already were slowing it down? For example, see Burke delays Abbot Point decision. There are already extensive requirements for environmental and economic impact assessments prior to Government approvals.
According to Gittins’s summary, which I’ve had to rely on as the Australia Institute paper is not on the web yet, the Australia Institute identifies a number of adverse impacts of the mining boom that justify Governments slowing it down, including skilled labour shortages and the impact on the Australian dollar.
But the Australia Institute doesn’t appear to appreciate the extensive consultation and collaboration already occurring between industry and Government to address skills requirements in the resources sector, such as the Mining and Gas Jobs Expos coordinated by Skills Queensland. Nor does it appear to appreciate the potential for the resources sector to provide job opportunities to people in those regional areas, such as the Gold Coast and Far North Queensland, that have sluggish economies.
Rather than arguing to slow down the mining boom, the Australia Institute would have a better case if they instead argued for Governments to push for greater contributions from industry, both financial and in-kind (e.g. equipment), to support training. Of course, the industry would then point to the new super profits tax it will be paying.
I find the Australia Institute’s suggestion that “new mining projects be required to bid at auction for a set number of development permits” (Gittins’s words) very odd, because there is no such thing as a homogeneous development permit. Approvals for new mines are site specific and typically have a range of conditions attached, particularly relating to environmental protection. As such, I can’t see any auction of a generic development permit being possible, as resources companies would have no idea what to bid for it.
Finally, I’ve expressed my views on the resources sector’s impact on the Australian dollar in a previous post: