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Resource industries deserve better than Mr Hawke

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

109/91 5 May 1991


Last week I visited major resource developments in Western Australia including the gold industry centred on Kalgoorlie- Boulderz the North West Shelf energy project and iron ore

operations in the Pilbara.

These are all industries predominately selling in world commodity markets against fierce international competition. They have only limited control over the price they receive for products and therefore must maximise productivity and tightly control costs

if they are to remain competitive.

The industries face further uncertainty through exchange rate movements and the natural risk inherent in resource exploration and development, be it in the huge cost and uncertain success of offshore oil and gas exploration or in the unexpected quality variations of iron ore deposits in the Pilbara.

Resource firms are prepared to make the commercial decisions regarding these business risks and to commit the huge capital sums necessary to bring these projects to fruition.

However all say further resource development is being hampered by the additional uncertainty brought on by the arbitrary and illogical decision making of government, particularly at the Federal level.

It is particularly sobering to recognise that projects of this magnitude would probably not get off the ground today, given the stifling effect of excessive red and green tape.

For example, the Hawke Government made a non-decision on

Coronation Hill in 1989. Sent to the RAC to delay consideration until after the 1990 election, the project is back with the Government with a clean environmental bill of health. Mr Hawke is now touting Aboriginal concerns as being the reason the mine must not proceed.

Mr Hawke is desperate to justify his earlier, politically motivated decision.

Mr Hawke cynically misled the voting public before the last election into believing the pristine areas of the Kakadu park would be destroyed by the Coronation Hill mine. He knows the reality is that Coronation Hill is 75 km from Yellow Waters, and

that Coronation Hill has been previously mined in the 1950's and 60 's which, apart from anything else, calls into question many of the Aboriginal/heritage arguments that are now being pushed by interest groups.



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He is now grasping for a reason to justify what is widely

recognised as one of the poorest, most cynical and political decisions of his Government.

Mr Hawke is signalling that he is prepared to use Aboriginal issues in the 1990's in the same manipulative way he used green issues in the 1980's.

At a time when our country urgently needs more development and more exports to improve our economic position, this sort of behaviour is to the significant detriment of the Australian people.

Now that systematic study has established that Coronation Hill and other developments should have been approved under objective environmental criteria, he is searching for another justification to stop development to keep faith with the extreme anti­

development lobby in the marginal seats of Melbourne and Sydney. The interests of the majority of Aboriginals will be as

peripheral to the process as were the interests of most

conservationists were to the game playing of the 1980's.

The resource industries deserve better than Mr Hawke's cynical, political game-playing.

His Government has continually raised the high jump bar, after it has been cleared by industry.

Decisions based on political opportunism may seem clever at the time but the long term debilitation of a vital internationally competitive sector of the economy is lousy government. Analysis of environmental issues should be based on facts and clear agreed approval processes.

Coronation Hill should be approved as a matter of urgency by the Government and Mr Hawke should show some integrity, honesty and leadership, admit the original decision was wrong, and give Coronation Hill the go-ahead.

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