QUEENSLAND’S $25 billion a year resources sector has released a federal election policy agenda alerting political parties to the folly of assuming a free ride for the Australian economy on the back of global demand for the country’s minerals and energy commodities.
In a 30-page submission titled The policy agenda for a sustainable resources sector, peak representative body, the Queensland Resources Council, warns that “continuing success can not be taken for granted”.
QRC Chief Executive Michael Roche said the document highlighted issues constraining industry development and opportunities for a forward-thinking Australian Government to build on the sector growth that has delivered billions of dollars in additional taxation revenues over recent years.
“As Australia enters its sixteenth consecutive year of growth, the sector’s export capacity constraints are in sharp evidence,” Roche said.
“Infrastructure constraints — both physical and social — are limiting Australia’s export potential and overall economic growth.
“Queensland’s rich natural endowment of minerals and energy must be complemented by concerted and coordinated efforts to maintain and enhance the sector’s competitive advantages.”
Roche said the QRC’s 64 full member companies operating in Queensland had identified widespread deficiencies in physical infrastructure including rail, ports, water and energy as matters of national importance.
“In 2005, the Council of Australian Governments agreed to a rolling program of infrastructure audits to focus on issues of national significance such as the current performance and possible future needs of Australia’s major export chains,” Roche said.
“We know from our own experience in commissioning the O’Donnell Review of the Goonyella coal supply chain that an objective overview can be extremely valuable in not only addressing deficiencies but planning for future growth.
“The incoming federal government needs to be focused on the fact that Queensland’s resources customers aren’t interested in polling results or electoral cycles.
“They are interested in buying a quality product at a competitive price, delivered in a reliable manner.
“Regular national infrastructure audits would help inform and reassure international customers that Australia sees the challenge of supplying global resource markets as a national priority.”
Roche said workforce attraction and retention issues including education, skills development and regional community infrastructure were also constraining resource sector growth in Queensland.
What we have seen to date is good intent from state and federal governments to address these issues, but a lack of coordination in strengthening the frameworks for change.
An example is the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy (QMEA), which is building career pathways for students from 18 government and private high schools with geographical and mentor links to resource sector industries.
“Now a proven concept, the academy must be expanded if it is to deliver fully on its promise of addressing the resource sector’s skills shortage in Queensland,” he said.
Mining and minerals processing in Queensland is forecast to need another 15,000 employees by 2015 to satisfy double digit industrial growth in countries including India and China.
“The QRC policy agenda provides our political leaders and parties with a consolidated and considered view of the current state of the resources sector, particularly in Queensland,” Roche said.
“Hopefully, it will inspire them to look seriously at the enormous potential of the resources sector to provide long-term economic security for regional communities and the national economy.”
Roche said the QRC would actively pursue responses to the policy agenda in the lead-up to the federal election and summarise them for distribution to QRC members and industry stakeholders.