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Thursday, 30 May 1996
Page: 1440

Senator TROETH —My question is directed to the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Parer. Could the minister please inform the Senate of the mining industry's contribution to the nation's economy and the role it now plays in improving the quality of life for people living in regional Australia?

Senator PARER —I would like to thank Senator Troeth very much for that question.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Parer, could you take your seat until we get a bit of silence?

Senator PARER —That is a very good question from Senator Troeth. The mining industry makes an enormous contribution not only to regional Australia but to the whole Australian community and to urban Australia—something that often does not get through to the people in urban Australia.

I will just take some of the contributions made by that particular industry. Firstly, we could look at infrastructure. The mining industry provides roads, rail, ports, towns, communications, water, and so on, in a whole range of communities stretching right across Australia—and at no cost to the taxpayers of this country. Often on the tail of that flows a whole lot of other industries, whether they be manufacturing industries associated with mining or tourists in tourism industries themselves.

The mining industry directly employs 86,000 people in Australia, which is 1.1 per cent of the work force, and it generates 6.8 per cent of gross domestic product. From the urban point of view, it is interesting to note that something like 300,000 people are indirectly employed through the mining industry's efforts. Most of these would be in urban areas.

The mining industry now exports some $36 billion worth of exports, which makes it the largest exporter in Australia—35 per cent of total exports and 46 per cent of merchandise exports, a massive contribution. With regard to the mining industry's direct contribution to the Australian economy by way of direct company taxation, it gives about $1.3 billion. That does not include PAYE taxes through the direct or indirect system.

The mining industry makes a contribution to the states in the order of $800 million in royalties, and that does not include the petroleum resource rent tax. It is the only industry, I would have to say, that makes those sorts of contributions to the states. No other industry does that.

Our major export industry is the coal industry, as Senator Hill referred to previously. It exports about $8 billion worth of coal. That is notwithstanding the treacherous action of one Bill Kelty, the secretary of the ACTU, who represents the industrial arm of the Australian Labor Party. He attempted to undermine the exports of that industry in his infamous letter to a major coal buyer earlier this year.

The other thing worth pointing out, and the Senate should note this, is that the Industry Commission, in its report in February 1991—after eight years of Labor government—said:

Current government—

that is, the previous discredited Labor government—

policies toward exploration, mining and minerals processing activities are not `clever'. It is not clever to erect a whole array of impediments to one of the few industries in which Australia enjoys a clear advantage relative to many of our competitors. If we could dismantle just some of the barriers preventing these activities from realizing their full potential, the Commission has estimated that the value of resource sector outputs could be boosted by some $5 billion annually, translating to annual gains of the order of $10 billion on an economy-wide basis.

It is these impediments which this coalition government intends to address.