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Tuesday, 29 November 2005
Page: 9

Mr HAASE (2:37 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources. Would the minister advise the House of the contribution that Australia’s resources sector is making to the nation’s economic wellbeing? Is the minister aware of any threats to the future competitiveness of this sector?

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —I thank the member for Kalgoorlie for his question and also for his untiring efforts for the resource sector in Australia, which continues to go from strength to strength. The figures speak for themselves. In 2004-05, resource exports were worth $67.4 billion. In 2005-06, exports are expected to grow to a massive $87 billion. As well as that, there are some 241 major resource projects currently under way in Australia, of which a record 84 are well advanced. These projects are worth some $29 billion combined.

Mr Tanner —Tell us about manufacturing exports. How are they going?

The SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne!

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —These outstanding results in the resources sector are no accident. They come through the resources sector building its competitive advantage through an impressive mix of investment, innovation and, of course, industrial relations improvements.

Mr Tanner —What about exploration?

The SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne is warned!

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —In fact, as at 30 June 2005, some 33,000 Australian workplace agreements were operating in the mining sector. That is, about 60 per cent of all mining employees are now covered by federal agreements—and, by anyone’s measurement, that is a very impressive result.

Could I quote some people who are involved very closely in the resources sector in Australia. Firstly, Tim Shanahan, Chief Executive of the Western Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy, says that ‘Australian workplace agreements have sustained the dramatic increases in productivity across the Western Australian resources sector’—I think you would be interested in that, Leader of the Opposition. The BHP Billiton Iron Ore president, Graeme Hunt, says that direct employee-employer relationships have produced high pay, more flexible employment practices, higher productivity, performance linked pay and fewer industrial relations disputes. Mr Hunt says:

The track record is very clear. We really can’t afford to step backwards ...

This government is committed to taking the industry forward with modern IR reforms, which deliver greater flexibility, productivity and jobs. Obviously those who sit opposite do not believe me, so let me quote what Rio Tinto’s Charlie Lenegan said of the system. He said that it will ‘deliver on substantial areas where we can improve our business’.

All this good news is a far cry from the doom and gloom that have been projected perhaps by the member for Hunter. The reality is that Labor’s proposal to roll back IR is a backwards step and a clear threat to the resources industry and the future competitiveness of Australia’s industry.