Dryblower's advice for Tony

THE last thing Tony Abbott needs, as he slips his shoes under the Prime Minister’s desk in Canberra, is a letter of advice from Dryblower on what he should do to help rejuvenate Australia’s most important industry: mining.
Dryblower's advice for Tony Dryblower's advice for Tony Dryblower's advice for Tony Dryblower's advice for Tony Dryblower's advice for Tony


Tim Treadgold

However, in keeping with a reputation for offering gratuitous and occasionally provocative suggestions it seems that there could hardly be a better time to remind Australia’s freshly-elected leader why mining is critical to the country and why it should be the starting point of his period in government.

No-one in the industry needs to be told that it is mining that generates the lion’s share of Australia’s international income, and it is mining that has a natural advantage over most competition in the Asia Pacific region – which is not something the car or other manufacturing industries can claim.

Without a healthy mining industry the standard of living of all Australians would decline because it is the base, or “rock bottom” if you like, on which the country is built.

So, if Australia really has elected a government that “gets it” and understands where the country’s revenue comes from then the logical place to start in repairing the damage done over the past six years is in changing laws that damage mining and exploration and introducing laws that improve the industry.

Which leads to Dryblower’s top 10 list of things for Tony to do in restoring confidence in mining for the people who work in the industry and investors who provide the capital to develop the mines.

Oh, and in case Tony needs reminding, it is mining which generates the taxes which pay for the other things he wants to do.

Item 1, and the stand out which did not require much thinking: Axe the tax!

In one simple sweep of the PM’s pen a powerful signal will be sent to the investment community that Australia really has “changed management and is open for business”

Killing the deeply-disliked super-tax on mining will not hurt the government’s revenue base because it hardly raised a cracker in the first place.

However, axing the tax will send precisely the right message to the world that Australia has indeed learned its lesson about the need to encourage investment, not discourage it, and that class warfare that pits one group of Australians against another is beyond stupid.

Item 2: Axe the carbon tax. This is another item on Tony’s “to do” list but the sooner the better as a measure of restoring confidence in the economy.

Item 3: Introduce a meaningful exploration expenditure write-off provisions, or a flow-through share investment scheme, to encourage capital raising, which is an essential first step in the discovery of orebodies of the sort that lie hidden beneath Australia’s sandy surface.

Item 4: Accelerate the painfully slow project development approvals process at both a state and federal level. If necessary bang the heads of state premiers and force them into an environmental and social assessment process that has strict time limits.

Item 5: Tackle the union movement’s destructive tendency and bizarre belief that blocking developments in some ways improves the future income of members. Surely even the thickest shop steward can see that stopping one project in the name of a rotary back scrubber in the showers, or a choice of ice-cream in the mess, will stop future projects, and jobs.

Item 6: Direct government investment funds, especially the “do nothing” Future Fund to start investing in critical infrastructure such as expanded port, rail and road services.

Item 7: Introduce a sensible system of tax breaks for remote workers. Not one that is a hair-brained, last-minute grasp for popularity attempted by the former PM, Kevin Rudd, when he generated a thought bubble in Darwin during the election campaign.

Item 8: Deflate (dramatically) the bloated bureaucracy that has grown up around the assorted climate change departments and acknowledge that damaging mining in the name of a nebulous concept is an astonishingly dopey act of self-inflicted harm that falls into the foot-shooting category.

Item 9: Appoint a seriously high profile minister to administer mining in Australia to ensure that what he (or she) says overrides other ministries. At least, mining should be on the job list of the deputy PM.

Item 10: Call a Premier’s Conference with the specific (and only) agenda item being how to encourage expansion of the Australian mining industry, which has been so badly treated over the past decade that large chunks of it has migrated to Africa and beyond.

Readers might have other suggestions, but there is a 10-item list to kick the ball into play and hopefully get someone in the new government thinking about the critical role mining has played in creating a lifestyle in Australia that is the envy of the world.