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Industry Commission reference: the Australian black coal industry

I have asked the Industry Commission, pending the establishment of the Productivity Commission, to report within twelve months on the Australian black coal industry. The inquiry will examine the performance of the industry relative to international competitors and identify ways of improving the industry's efficiency and international competitiveness. It will also examine occupational health and safety issues in the industry.

This is an important inquiry given the industry's significance to the economy. It will provide the opportunity to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the industry and the international environment within which it operates.

The terms of reference are attached and have been framed following agreement by the Prime Minister, Mr Howard; the Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Reith; and the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Parer.

I have asked the Commission to report on productivity benchmarks; cost components; occupational health and safety arrangements and performance; work arrangements; and microeconomic reform as they relate to Australian mines, drawing international comparisons where appropriate. The results of the Commission's current study into work arrangements in the black coal industry will provide input into the inquiry.

The Commission will shortly release an issues paper and invite expressions of interest from parties wanting to participate in the inquiry. I encourage all interested parties to make submissions to the Commission and to attend public hearings.

For further information contact:

Bruce Gooday, Assistant Commissionor (Industry Commission, Melbourne) on 03 9653 2131

Australian Black Coal Industry

INDUSTRY COMMISSION ACT 1989

I, Peter Costello, Treasurer, under Part 2 of the Industry Commission Act 1989 hereby:

1. refer the international competitiveness of the Australian black coal industry to the Industry Commission for inquiry and report within 12 months of receiving this reference;

2. specify that in making its recommendations the Commission identify ways of improving the international competitiveness of the Australian black coal industry which are consistent with improving the overall performance of the Australian economy;

3. request that the Commission report on:

(a) sound, objectively determined benchmarks of productivity performance for Australian black coal mines, best practice in comparable international black coal mines and best practice in analogous Australian mertalliferous mines, identifying the reasons for differences in productivity performance between the specified groups. Components investigated should include management, labour, machine performance, and mine geology;

(b) cost components from the mine to the port for exported Australian black coal, including wages and other onsite mine costs, royalties, and infrastructure charges and comparison of the COStS with those of overseas black coal mines and Australian metalliferous mines, with an explanation of the differences;

(c) safety arrangements and performance of Australian black coal mines, and how they compared with international counterparts and Australian metalliferous mines, recognising previous Commission work on occupational health and safety;

(d) work arrangements in the Australian black coal mines, compared with international counterparts and Australian metalliferous mines; and

(e) methods by which Australia's major competitors have implemented micro-economic reform in their black coal industries. the success of those measures, and their applicability to the Australian black coal industry;

4. specify that the Commission report, where appropriate, on implementation strategies for its recommendations;

5. specify that the Commission avoid duplication of any recent substantive studies undertaken or underway elsewhere; and

6. specify that the Commission have regard to the established economic, social, regional development and environmental objectives of governments.