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Why Coronation Hill Decision is a Litmus Test

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John Hewson Leader of the Opposition M e d i a R e l e a s e

167/91 17 June 1991


Mr Hawke and his Cabinet sit down on Tuesday to resume the debate on Coronation Hill which was aborted when the ex-Treasurer's ambition finally burst to the surface.

Mr Hawke has been attempting to portray the decision as nothing out of the ordinary, business as usual, and with no wider


Fortunately, his new Treasurer Mr Kerin has a better grasp on reality. He appreciates that there is more to good government than a predilection to cruise around schools and retirement homes restoring the Prime Ministerial "vitality".

Mr Kerin has stated that the decision on Coronation Hill will be a litmus test of the government's resolve. Australia must encourage more resource development if the current account deficit is ever to be turned around. Projects which meet

stringent environmental and heritage standards should not be delayed. Development cannot occur without confidence in government decision making by resource industries and by the broader investment community.

The Hawke Government's record of cynical decision making on development issues has hurt the industry, a fact which Mr Kerin recognises but appears to have escaped the "revitalised" Prime Minister.

A recent survey listed 22 resource projects stalled or slowed on environmental or Aboriginal heritage grounds. Another analysis of 11 projects showed development approval delays had totalled nearly 90 years. On top of this must be added the value of lost production, lost wages, and lost goodwill with customers.

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The Government must remove all impediments to mining at

Coronation Hill, allowing negotiations between the joint venturers and the Jawoyn to proceed. It must also learn from the sorry experience of its meddling and cynical manipulation of

environmental issues.

Clear and predictable government approval processes are essential for an industry which has long lead times, needs huge capital investment, and sells on volatile world markets.



Only when governments set clear guidelines early in the project approval process, and thereafter act with restraint in dealing with contentious issues, will the confidence of industry be rebuilt.

With Mr Hawke's history of opportunistic intervention, a pro­ mining decision on Coronation Hill will need to be followed by some commonsense on uranium and a demonstrated determination to facilitate rational assessment of the many other stalled


For Australia's sake Mr Kerin's sound counsel should prevail over Mr Hawke's political debt to the Left in tomorrow's Cabinet debate.

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