One of the highlights of the Mineral Council of Australia’s Minerals Week 2013 was a seminar featuring addresses from Parliamentary, government and industry leaders.

Dr Fisher discussed two major themes in his address to Minerals Week 2013. In the first part of his speech he raised the importance of maintaining a good policy process. A good policy process is necessary but not sufficient for the development of sound policy. A good policy process requires several ingredients: intelligent and thoughtful policy clients who conduct their own research, are well prepared for debate and are rational and open-minded; solid industry experience in both the public service and minsters’ offices; a cabinet process in which there is genuine debate and the contest of ideas; and a public service structure that facilitates the flow of information to ministers in a way that is not impeded by unwieldy departments, or agencies that are so small that they lack critical mass.

In the second part of his speech Dr Fisher highlighted the advantages that Australia has as a mineral producer but also discussed where Australia could lift its game. He felt that in recent years there had been a reduction in efforts to reduce protection. He made the point that protection of a sector such as the motor vehicles industry is equivalent to a tax on the traditional export industries – it causes the exchange rate and real wages to be higher than they otherwise would have been and therefore reduces the export competitiveness of mining and agriculture. He acknowledged that there had been some progress in the development of export infrastructure in Australia since the report of the Prime Minister’s Exports and Infrastructure Taskforce was released in 2005 but noted that the performance of the single-used iron ore transport and port infrastructure remained far superior to that of multi-user coal transport and shipping infrastructure on Australia’s east coast. In discussing taxation issues, as they affect the minerals industry, he noted that the existing taxation regime was a product of the Australian constitution and that no amount of theorising about ‘perfect’ taxation systems would overcome the inherent difficulties associated with negotiations between the states and the Commonwealth. He also challenged the notion that super profits exist in the very long run in the mining industry and pointed to the 35 ‘lean’ years in the Pilbara iron ore industry before the 5 ‘good’ years in the most recent decade and the strong prospect that the industry is headed toward the ‘lean’ years again.

In concluding Dr Fisher pointed to a number of drivers that have pushed Australian costs up relative to our competitors including the renewable energy target and the carbon tax, both imposts that are well out of line with anything imposed on Australia’s trade competitors.

For more information on Minerals Week 2013 see the following website: