Dryblower rings the Rudd warning bell

WHEN the going gets tough, Americans are sometimes heard to say, “offence is the best defence”, a piece of advice Dryblower wanted to hear from at least one of the speakers at last week’s meeting of the Minerals Council of Australia, but didn’t.
Dryblower rings the Rudd warning bell Dryblower rings the Rudd warning bell Dryblower rings the Rudd warning bell Dryblower rings the Rudd warning bell Dryblower rings the Rudd warning bell


Tim Treadgold

Instead, he heard a lot of complaints about the way mining in Australia had been treated during six years of the Rudd/Gillard government, without many suggestions about what to expect over the next six.

Why worry, seemed to be the attitude of the fat cats gathered in Canberra while another 1000 of their workers lost their jobs thanks to low commodity prices and high taxes. Soon there will be a pro-mining government elected, seemed to be the common view.

Really? Or is the mining industry being over-confident now that Gillard has gone and Rudd has returned, when early opinion polls show that he could beat the less popular conservative leader, Tony Abbott.

If that happens, and Rudd is re-elected with the help of the virulently anti-mining Green Party, then the problems of the past six years will simply continue, and possibly get worse as louder demands are made to close the coal industry and raise taxes on everything else.

If this sounds like a nightmare scenario, that is because it is. However, if you also believe that there is nothing to prevent it happening then you are wrong because lessons have been learned and now need to be remembered.

Just over three years ago it was the first Rudd government that launched the original mining super tax which its creator, then Treasury head, Ken Henry, described as “an elegant tax”

It was not elegant at all, as we all know. It was an ugly tax that was replaced by an unworkable tax, which raised very few dollars but did confuse investors and helped drive them out of Australia.

Rudd, re-elected, will plug the loopholes in Gillard’s version of the super tax and the assault on mining will restart. If you think Dryblower is being alarmist then take a look at the poor state of the Australian government’s finances.

Once returned, Rudd and friends, will cast around looking for easy ways to raise fresh funds. What easier target can there be than the political enemies of the mining and oil industries?

Meanwhile, as the Australian political pendulum swings back from right to left, the leaders of the mining industry talk only about the bad things that happened over the past six years and do not appear to be making plans for what might be to come.

Wake up! The game is changing (again) and the issues that caused so much damage over the past six years are returning.

Reacting after the event is not an option for mining. It needs to act now to prevent a repeat crisis, not that urgency seems to be a priority at the Minerals Council where members spent much of last week’s conference complaining about past events, and little about planning for the future.

A small example of the slow reaction speed of mining leaders was contained in the talk given by Anglo American chief executive, Mark Cutifani.

Nine months ago Dryblower nipped at the heels of the great man by criticising his attack on Australia being less attractive as an investment destination than South Africa. It was a silly thing for Cutifani to say and almost certainly a way of earning points in the country that houses many of Anglo’s best assets.

Last week, Cutifani hit back, saying: “as most know, my comments were taken out of context” and that “this is my only comment since the article was published, I will simply let the facts do the talking”

Sorry mate, not only are you nine months late with your defence but what is the point of saying “as most know” when it is pretty clear most people do not know whether your Australia v South Africa observations were really taken out of context.

Sadly for the mining industry a response nine months after the event is the equivalent of whistling into a strong breeze. Nobody can hear you.

As for mounting an attack on the Australian government at an event where the entire audience fell into the category of “the converted” well, that too is a waste of time and energy.

The clear and present danger for mining is happening in today’s political debate. Reminiscing about past events, or indulging in attempted point scoring nine months after the event, earns no points at all.

Mining should be leading the debate about what is best for the Australian economy and that a fresh attack on mining will cost more jobs, lead to more mine closures, and trigger a stampede by investors for the exits.

These are things that need to be said now, in a revitalised pro-mining advertising campaign, that uses offence as a way of defending the mining industry.

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