MARKETS

Qld called to press reset button

HAVING basically ignored addressing the resources sector in any serious way during the Queensland election campaign, and assuming the electoral fall-out is decided shortly, the Labor Party now needs to get serious about it how it wants to govern, resources lawyer Robert Milbourne said.

Anthony Barich
Qld called to press reset button

Milbourne, an international corporate transactional attorney who has dealt with the likes of Vale, BHP Billiton and others during his more than 15-year career, said potential premier-in-waiting Annastacia Palaszczuk led an election campaign that was “light on policy, and now must prepare to govern”.

Milbourne, a partner at international law firm K&L Gates – which deals with off-take transactions, M&A, project financing and corporate governance – said Palaszczuk will need to deliver an effective leadership team with “real policies beyond the mantra against selling assets”.

“The success of her government's policies may have profound consequences for the state coffers, the broader economy and employment prospects of all Queenslanders,” Milbourne said.

Milbourne, who is also an adjunct professor at the University of Queensland School of Law, said resources did not enter into the election debate generally – with controversial topics like the LNP's promise to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the infrastructure for the Galilee Basin mining projects not broadly discussed.

“The Newman government's proposal for launch of a multi-year wide reaching reform of the state’s natural resources laws and regulations was hardly mentioned at all as well,” he said.

“Strategies by the Newman government or the Palaszczuk governments to support the resources sector seemed at best to be an afterthought to the discussion over whether or not to privatise state assets.”

He said the new Labor government – the likely outcome at this point – has an opportunity to reset policy for the resources sector, starting with recognising that mining and natural resources are now global industries and Queensland must fight to attract and keep investments in the state.

“It was not long ago that the leading review of mining legislation around the world ranked Queensland below Botswana as an attractive place to invest,” Brisbane-based Milbourne said.

“The new government must take a strong focus on how the global economy views our state policies, and seek stability, while gradually reforming policies to reflect global best practice.”

He also called on the ALP to commit “real funds” to resources companies to maintain and continue to train employees, as Queensland has faced a “near decimation” of employment in the sector over the last two years which must be reversed urgently before the consequences become permanent.

“Major mining and LNG houses have gone through multiple rounds of redundancies in the state, with more potentially in the offing” he said. “The new government should take a long hard look at what can be done to reverse this trend through state policies.”

He also made the bold call of prompting the ALP to make Queensland a ‘global centre of mining excellence’, as “for far too long Queensland has been a quarry to Asia”.

“This global industry invests everywhere from deep sea (two of the leading companies in this area are Brisbane based) to near earth asteroid mining, to major projects throughout Africa and South America,” he said.

“Silicon Valley attests to the value of aggregating industry expertise in one place. Brisbane has a legitimate claim to world leader status for an industry that delivers 11.5 percent of global GDP.

“We should attract, maintain and invest in ensuring Brisbane has the world leading geologists, engineers and mining experts that will keep our professionals employed globally no matter where the projects are to be built and operated.”

He also urged a rethink on the LNP's size and terms of the proposed infrastructure investment into the Galilee Basin, which is critical to the state’s fortunes.

Milbourne warned that while assisting the proponents may make a difference, an investment of up to $A1 billion out of an estimated $16 billion project hardly seems an amount destined to make or break the region's development.

“Instead just imagine if the state was to invest that money into a fund to support or attract global mining exploration and geo-technology companies on the condition they make their permanent home in Brisbane,” he said.

“Such a move, if properly designed and costed, could have the potential to bring in more revenue to the state and more employment for Queenslanders, without necessarily jeopardizing the development of the Galilee Basin.”

A cross-government task force for the resources sector is also needed, he said, as many industry participants believe the current downturn is the worst in two generations, and “retractions of this scale risk making permanent structural changes to our state”.

“As highly paid engineers, consultants and advisors leave the state, so does their investment into housing, local services, and civic participation,” Milbourne said.

“The ALP should make it a priority to stop the departures.

“While government may not be able to stop much of the damage that has already been done, a task force may be able to create innovative solutions to reduce the long term impact, for example, through the creation of resources 'development precinct' similar to CSIRO’s Eco Sciences precinct in Dutton Park.”

He said that given Palaszczuk has made clear she would prioritise jobs for the state, consistent, dedicated and innovative policies toward the sector are needed to improve the state's deficit, and prepare it for an even more prosperous future.

TOPICS:

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Monthly Intelligence team.

A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the mining sector, brought to you by the Mining Monthly Intelligence team.

editions

Mining Magazine Intelligence Future Fleets Report 2024

The report paints a picture of the equipment landscape and includes detailed profiles of mines that are employing these fleets

editions

Mining Magazine Intelligence Digitalisation Report 2023

An in-depth review of operations that use digitalisation technology to drive improvements across all areas of mining production

editions

Mining Magazine Intelligence Automation Report 2023

An in-depth review of operations using autonomous solutions in every region and sector, including analysis of the factors driving investment decisions

editions

Mining Magazine Intelligence Exploration Report 2023 (feat. Opaxe data)

A comprehensive review of current exploration rates, trending exploration technologies, a ranking of top drill intercepts and a catalogue of 2022 Initial Resource Estimates and recent discovery successes.