Dryblower's call to arms as Australia votes

SIT on the fence, or pick a side? That’s the question confronting mining as Australia goes to the polls, and while it is traditional for the industry to keep its mouth shut during an election campaign Dryblower reckons that this time it is different.
Dryblower's call to arms as Australia votes Dryblower's call to arms as Australia votes Dryblower's call to arms as Australia votes Dryblower's call to arms as Australia votes Dryblower's call to arms as Australia votes


Tim Treadgold

But, and this is a big But, that does not mean mining has to take sides.


What needs to be done is for the industry to make it clear that it is not a dozy cash cow to be milked whenever Treasury discovers a hole in its bucket, sorry, budget.


May 2 was mining’s Pearl Harbour, a day of infamy as history changing as December 7, 1945, when the Japanese launched their sneak attack.


By not consulting, using incorrect figures, and then fibbing their way through the mining tax debate of May and June, the people who really run government in Australia, the civil service, revealed an appalling ignorance of where the country’s money really comes from.


After August 21, whether it is a Labor or Liberal-led government nothing will have changed at Treasury.


The same people will give the same advice to government, and will continue to do that without having ever once visited a mine, or even lowered themselves from their ivory towers to talk to the mining industry.


That’s the first reason why mining must keep its finger poised over the attack button, and why it might even consider a permanent marketing and political education fund to ensure that the bean counters in grey cardigans are perpetually reminded who they actually work for.


There is another reason why mining needs to adopt part of the motto of the RSL, Eternal Vigilance, and that’s because both major political parties have shown that they are unable to keep their end of a deal.


Mining’s big win in playing a key role in the dumping of the former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, has dulled an appreciation of what happened inside the Labor party three weeks ago, and how it mimics events of 20 (and more) years ago – that is how side deals so often go wrong.


It is tricky from the outside to know exactly what happened as Rudd headed for the exit ,but it seems reasonably clear that he only went quietly because he was promised a position in a future government led by Julia Gillard.


In other words, if Labor wins, Rudd is back – and Dryblower is prepared to bet London to a brick that he will seek revenge for what the mining industry did to his career.


If the secret Rudd-Gillard deal is not reason to be concerned about what happens in the aftermath of political failure consider the appalling exchanges between another former prime Minister, Bob Hawke, and his one-time best mate, Paul Keating.


If the Labor party’s shenanigans are insufficient proof, there are Liberal party examples that would make the great movie producer, Samuel Goldwyn, smile from the grave because it was Goldwyn who famously said: “A verbal contract ain’t worth the paper it’s written on”


The Liberal example was an alleged deal between yet another former prime minister, John Howard, and his former best mate, Peter Costello.


Get the picture?


In every example a deal is done, or alleged to have been done, only to unravel at some future time when the memories of the different players play tricks and what someone thought had been promised is suddenly un-promised.


Mining today is in the same position as Costello, Keating, Rudd, and countless other participants in political deals of the verbal type that you would not find anywhere on a piece of paper, such as when Gillard announced her truce with mining three weeks ago – it was all verbal.


If Dryblower was running the mining industry in Australia he would today be ringing around reminding assorted chief executives of what happens to verbal contracts and why it is a good idea to remind both political parties that it remains ready for combat.


A good starting point, given that fear of an election will pass on August 22, is that global capital, of the sort which Australia needs to operate its most important export industry, remains flexible.


Perhaps a slogan, such as “The Call of Canada” or “Chilean copper delights” or “Africa’s Golden West” might be an apt reminder that mining can go when it likes, and where it is most welcome.


*Dryblower is a weekly column on ILN’s sister publication MiningNews.net.

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