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Labor votes against inquiry into iron ore contracts – again

The McGowan Government has again voted against a push by The Nationals WA to have a Parliamentary inquiry into legacy iron ore State Agreements.

Leader Mia Davies moved an amendment to the Premier’s statement today calling on the Legislative Assembly to refer legacy State Agreements to the Public Accounts Committee.

“The public has been shocked to find the Premier has been secretly negotiating with BHP over underpaid royalties,” Ms Davies said.

“It serves as another reason why the public is starting to question how the agreements operate and whether they are appropriate given they were struck in the 1960s.

“It is appropriate that West Australians have an understanding of the context of these agreements and what obligations are and are not being met. Surely as the owners of the resource, the people have a right to know.”

Today’s amendment comes after The Nationals moved a similar motion in Parliament 18 months ago, which the Government also refused to support.

“It is the view of The Nationals that the legacy State Agreements, which refer to the first four iron ore mining contracts signed between 1963-1968, do not reflect the economic, social or technological landscape in 2019,” Ms Davies said.

“Those State Agreements were signed at a time when no one could have foreseen record tonnages, Singapore marketing hubs, automated trains or international outsourcing of HR/administration functions.

“These State Agreements contained significant concessions to support a fledgling iron ore industry, including exemptions from local government rates, long-term leases, tax concessions and specific measures to cut through normal planning and environmental processes.”

Ms Davies said The Nationals were not out to destroy confidence or hurt investment in the mining industry.

“We maintain that as elected representatives it is our role to strike a balance between the demands and the needs of the resource sector and the sustainable development of our State,” she said.

Ms Davies said the McGowan Government’s current attempt to claw back unpaid royalties from BHP struck at the heart of the secret clauses contained within legacy State Agreements.

“The Government has refused to say whether the deduction BHP claimed for more than a decade – and allegedly denied the people of Western Australia their rightful royalty payments – was because of clauses within their State Agreements,” she said.