Coal facing structural change: Barnett

COAL’s future is uncertain and facing a long-term structural decline, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has told a business forum in Perth.
Coal facing structural change: Barnett Coal facing structural change: Barnett Coal facing structural change: Barnett Coal facing structural change: Barnett Coal facing structural change: Barnett

Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett

Lou Caruana

The story for coal had changed dramatically over the past 12 months and reflects the slowing down of the China growth story, he warned.

“The change in the coal price is beyond cyclical: it is a structural change,” he told the Deutsche Bank and The Australian newspaper Business Leaders’ forum.

“And while coal remains the world's most used fuel for power generation and other purposes, the world is making policy decisions which mean that coal usage, in my view, will progressively decline. It's a long-term structural change and that should not be dismissed as something that is purely cyclical.”

Barnett said not enough had been done to lift productivity during the boom years and that expectations were now raised too high.

“The obvious example would be unrealistic and unsustainable wage expectations on major projects, which have been a significant factor in costs,” he said.

“We've also seen a fairly lazy approach in areas like productivity, which has been flat, and certainly declining relative to many of our competitors.

“I don't think you can just blame the unions for that. I think government shares part of the blame and I think the corporate sector also shares part of the blame.

“To some extent, even though there are job losses throughout the structures of most organisations in mining, maybe that's a little bit of a cleansing that was long overdue.

“We've also seen during that period of so-called boom, I think, a lack of attention to the problems of some of the inherently weaker sectors of the Australian economy: manufacturing, tourism and other areas. Farming, I guess, is also another area I would pick out.”

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