Supporting Australia’s mining companies to create more high-wage, high-skill jobs is the best way to strengthen regional communities and lessen inequality, according to Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) interim chief executive officer David Byers.
The MCA’s submission to the Senate Economics Committee Inquiry into the Indicators and Impact of Regional Inequality outlines a range of reforms – in particular, the need for quicker, easier project approvals and a modern workplace relations system – which should be implemented to benefit Australians living in regional communities.
The Productivity Commission found in December last year that Australians were better off because of the mining industry thanks to higher average incomes, larger profits and increased tax revenues.
Byers said the commission found that mining regions continued to have higher incomes and much greater employment than prior to the boom – and that the benefits created by mining will continue into the future.
“The MCA agrees with the commission that removing barriers to doing business is the best way to encourage regional development,” Byers said.
“Most of the 220,000 Australians employed by the resources sector in high-wage, high-skill jobs work in remote and regional areas.”
Individual mining companies also partner with local regional communities by buying goods and services from local businesses, training apprentices and graduates and donating funds to hospitals and schools, he added.
The MCA identified several ways the federal government should back Australian mining companies and regional communities, including by streamlining state and federal approval processes, while maintaining environmental protection, preventing unmeritorious legal challenges to approved projects and removing the duplicative water trigger for coal seam gas and large coal developments.
It said the government should institute a modern workplace relations system by confining permitted content in enterprise agreements to direct employment matters, refocusing adverse action provisions to discourage unreasonable claims, rebalancing union right-of-entry provisions to prevent unwarranted disruptions to operations and reforming greenfields agreements to encourage investment in new projects.
In addition, the MCA advises the government to promote taxation reforms which reduce Australia’s internationally uncompetitive corporate tax rate, while also ensuring that energy and climate change policies are nationally coordinated and recognise the energy and resource-intensive nature of the Australian economy.