Entrepreneur Dick Smith and former resources minister Nick Minchin delivered keynote speeches at the historic mining town’s civic centre, juxtaposing the challenges of tackling immediate political obstacles and long-range social changes, both intrinsically linked to the mining industry.
Smith represented his food company at the event, marrying agriculture and minerals as the two primary drivers of Australian prosperity and calling for a more sustainable approach to government and industry expectations for perpetual profit growth.
Delegates were hushed after Smith’s presentation today through which he proposed curbing production in the mining industry to prevent giant companies from becoming near monopolies and prolonging the economic potential of the country’s limited natural resources.
“Today, with a globalised world, you’re supposed to have a market that can sell anything, which invariably means anything any good will be sold off,” he told MiningNews.net on the conference sidelines.
“Because these overseas companies have to have endless growth, they will come and buy anything that’s any good here. My belief is we will end up with two of everything in the world.
“We already have two airline manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing, we will end up with two retailers, it’ll be Wal-Mart and Aldi and we’ll end up with two mining companies.”
Smith opened the event ruminating on his early business endeavours in Broken Hill, setting the stage for a series of speeches focused on pride in the industry’s local roots but challenging miners on traditional business strategies.
“We must accept that an economic system such as our present one that requires the enormous waste and non-sustainable overproduction to keep everyone employed is no longer acceptable,” he said.
“If we maximise foreign investment right now, we’ll give a clear, quick advantage to our present generation as we dig out resources quicker, but surely we owe it to future generations, our children and grandchildren, that we share the riches.
“If we can exploit these resources in a slightly slower way because we have less population growth, there’s a chance that we can spread the wealth in a much fairer way.
“Because you work within the mining industry, there must be pressure to increase the profits as quickly as possible, especially at the present time when times are economically not good … but what I’m saying is there clearly has to be a balance.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow move our super funds to invest more within the Australian mining industry?”
Minchin followed with more reaction to recent federal budget revisions that will see and end to immediate mining exploration deductions.
“It inevitably will have a detrimental impact on confidence and on investment in exploration which you know better than I do is the lifeblood of the industry,” he told delegates.
“It was, as far as I can see, a classic Labor budget; more taxes, more spending, more red ink and yet another whack at this great industry.”
Minchin closed by calling on resource companies to convey their disapproval of the exploration capitalisation decision to Opposition leaders expected to inherit the budget.
He also said an effort to dispel an “us versus them” mentality in government and a sustained industry-wide effort to restore public sentiment in the mining industry would ultimately be needed.
“I’ve been one who just constantly urges this industry to use every avenue it can to get its message out there,” he said.
“It’s easy for the bureaucrats and politicians to have a whack at this industry if their own constituents are telling them, ‘Ms Rinehart just sends all her profits overseas’
“You’ve got to start with primary and secondary education and work with coalition governments to try to find ways to get into the schooling system.
“You’ve got to put some of your wealth into public education and it has got to be constant and rigorous.
“You can’t just keep putting your toe in and out of the water. It’s a monumental campaign that this industry has got to wage. It’s got to be at every level and it can never stop.
“There’s a lot of sympathy in Sydney and Melbourne for Aboriginal Australians, well this is the industry that can provide them with jobs and wealth and futures.
“It’s the only real industry in rural and regional Australia that’s ever going to provide any future for all the Aboriginal Australians who are out there.
“You do a fantastic job of that – but nobody knows about it.”