Nationals WA Leader Mia Davies has warned everyday West Australians will pay for Labor’s “lighter touch” approach to legacy iron ore miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
Responding to Mark McGowan’s comments to a Chamber of Minerals and Energy forum, Ms Davies said the Premier failed to outline why he considered it fair BHP and Rio continue to pay 25c per tonne in rent when every other Western Australian household and business was being asked to pay higher fees and charges.
“BHP and Rio have averaged a more than 50 per cent return on their Pilbara assets in the past decade and stand to continue to make mega profits from their Pilbara cash cow in coming decades,” Ms Davies said. “The WA Nationals believe it is more than fair to ask these two companies to pay their fair share to get the State Budget back on track.
“We know Labor will happily tap households on the shoulder to help fix the budget but does Mr McGowan have the guts to do the same to the State’s most profitable – and powerful – companies?
“Mr McGowan was quoted as saying ‘a lighter touch form of working with the industry is a ... better way to go’.
“A lighter touch would suggest the new Premier is happy to look the other way as the big mining companies continue to gain cost benefits from their Singapore trading hubs, relentlessly move jobs offshore and march towards a fully autonomous workforce.”
Ms Davies said Mr McGowan’s pleas for mining companies to take on local workers and apprentices was far from a fresh approach.
“It is easy to stand in front of industry heavyweights and ask them to take on local workers – every Premier for the past 20 years has done that,” Ms Davies said. “What isn’t easy is to confront the miners head on about their ongoing contribution to the State as they continue to exhaust our finite resources at record rates.
“Huge gains in technology and innovation have resulted in increased productivity with far fewer employees, but has also meant that the benefits to the state per tonne of resource extracted – in fixed charges, employment and state payroll tax revenues – has been declining in real terms.”
Ms Davies said assertions the WA Nationals’ policy to increase the special lease rental to $5 per tonne would die off following the defeat of former party leader Brendon Grylls were wrong.
“The Western Australian people deserve a fair return on their resources and expect the return to be reinvested into the economy,” Ms Davies said. “The WA Nationals are more committed than ever to delivering that fair return.
“The Nationals will continue to fight on behalf of all Western Australians to ensure the people of our State are the masters of the multinational mining companies, not the servants.”
Ms Davies condemned the CME for their underhanded advertising campaign in the lead-up to the March election.
“This ethically-questionable foray into politics by the big mining companies needs to be examined,” Ms Davies said. “Western Australians should ask themselves whether they’re comfortable with non-political entities dictating election results if they don’t agree with a policy setting.”