Sigh, at the ABC:
The gold industry is pulling out all stops in its fight to defeat what it claims will be a job-crippling royalty increase.
From taking out large newspaper advertisements to inviting key media figures to dinner at fancy restaurants, the mining lobby is leaving no stone unturned in its battle against the McGowan Government’s gold royalty hike.
But with the vote in State Parliament to determine the fate of the 50 per cent rise in the royalty rate potentially less than a week away, the industry stepped its campaign up a notch yesterday.
In a rare show of unity, senior executives from some of the state’s biggest gold miners, and top figures from other companies linked to the industry, lined up yesterday to warn jobs would be lost en masse if the royalty hike remained.
Executives were jetted in from across the country to make their case at an “industry roundtable” in Perth, hosted by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME).
Their warnings were dire and included mine closures, exploration cuts, a reduction in apprenticeships and direct harm to employment in Aboriginal communities.
The bottom line was clear — the Government’s attempt to use the industry to raise hundreds of millions of dollars will kill jobs and cripple the economy.
But the Government is keen to point out the irony in an industry spending large sums of money arguing it can’t afford to pay more.
The Chamber of Minerals and Energy has not revealed how much it has spent on the campaign so far, after forking out millions earlier this year fighting a WA Nationals’ proposal to tax the big iron ore miners.
But its latest industry-funded public relations and advertising blitz clearly has not been cheap.
Some Government figures have questioned how tough things actually are for the industry, if it can afford glitzy websites and impossible-to-ignore colour advertisements in the daily newspaper.
Treasurer Ben Wyatt insisted all the expense had been a waste.
“If they had the case they would have presented it to me, they would have done the modelling, they would have had the independent sources, but they haven’t had it and they have not produced it.”
Whether it has all been a waste or not should become clear soon, when the fate of ambitions to block the royalty hike in State Parliament become clear.
While the royalty increase is already law, it can still be voted down by the Upper House — and that disallowance motion already has the support of the Nationals and key crossbenchers.
That means the future of the royalty hike rests in the hands of the WA Liberals.
In a rare position for a party annihilated at an election just six months ago, the Liberals have the power to ensure either the survival or death of the royalty increase.
The Liberals are yet to make up their minds, with leader Mike Nahan saying yesterday the party was prepared to listen.
“The Liberal Party does not take lightly its role of passing money type bills in the Upper House, it takes it very seriously,” Dr Nahan said.
“Tell us what the impact will be… it is an important issue,” he said.
And it’s clear the industry will be attempting to do just that.
“That is where our effort will go between now and the 10th [of October], to be quite honest,” the CME’s chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said.
By splashing the cash now, miners are hoping to save much more in the long run by ensuring the defeat of a policy that would leave a substantial hole in the McGowan Government’s first budget.
So, will the fantastically inept Dr Nahan butcher the WA Budget all over again?
He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.