Former Finance Minister Michael Costa has warned the New South Wales mining industry that it is up against potentially damaging political games and said it needs to raise its voice against opposition groups.
Industry experts, employers, and politicians both past and present turned out last night to discuss why mining matters in New South Wales.
At the event, hosted by the NSW Minerals Council, the former finance minister said calls to ban mining by political parties including the Greens, were not a new idea.
“The reality is that at least two times in my position in government, there were serious proposals to rule out coal mining in this state,” he said.
“That’s how frightening it got.
“I criticised the mining industry then for being silent.”
Costa said the mining industry is still remaining too quiet on their issues regarding land use in New South Wales and they need to be proactive, because if something like a mining ban was introduced, it would be immensely difficult to turn around.
“You need to be making a lot of noise to support your industry.”
Minority groups, he said, get attention and funding because they are so vocal on their views.
“A squeaky wheel gets oiled.
“Misallocation of funds are linked to coal minority groups.”
Corporate economic consultant Alan Smart said at the forum the main reason the Greens have supporters is because they have taken an official and definitive stance on the environment and mining.
“They stand for something.
“Other parties need to come up with their policies and the Greens will disappear, like the Australian Democrats, like One Nation.”
The Shadow Finance Minister, Mike Baird agreed that the balance is not right between the environmental concerns and the necessity for mining in New South Wales.
He said if elected in March, the state Liberals will aim to find the balance and consult people from the different sides of the debate.
NSW Minerals Council Deputy CEO Sue-Ern Tan told Australian Mining they welcomed the invitation to be a part of the advisory board for the state government.
“We clearly a need to balance what is growth of industry because of the economical benefits it brings, but also need to balance what environmental concerns and health concerns that are legitimate by farmers and land users.
"The most important thing the council will be doing first is listening to community concerns.
We need to hear what they are to understand them properly.”
Paul Ruthven, from IBISWorld said at the forum that New South Wales faces some unique challenges in its quest to mine in the state.
“What’s different about New South Wales as compared to Western Australia and Queensland, for example, is those states see mining as a positive thing and they welcome it for their state and economy.”
Because the bulk of the New South Wales population resides in Sydney, there is a different attitude towards to mining issues in regional centres, he said.
Tan agreed with his comments and said it was difficult for people in urban environments to comprehend the importance of mining.
“You can afford to be in Sydney making decisions on mining when your son or father or whoever isn’t dependant on the mining industry and it’s not affecting your hip pocket,” she told Australian Mining.
“New South Wales is unlike Western Australia and Queensland, and quite unique in the world, because mining occurs on top of and close to land users so conflicts arise.
She said the industry needs to listen to concerns and inform people in New South Wales about mining.
“We try to always put our side of story through and portray the good things, but it’s up to media to tell it.
“Sometimes it’s better to tell David and Goliath story rather than one on how beneficial mining is.”