The Nationals WA have welcomed a new report which reveals mining companies now regard ‘licence to operate’ as the biggest risk facing their business.
Leader Mia Davies said the results of the EY survey represented a dramatic shift in the mining industry’s psyche and attributed it, at least in part, to The Nationals’ push to keep the big companies honest.
“The big iron ore companies spent what’s been conservatively estimated at $5 million trying to discredit a Nationals policy at the 2017 election – a policy centred on ensuring two of the biggest players were paying their fair share to the WA community and that agreements struck in the 1960s were not necessarily applicable in a modern economy,” Ms Davies said.
“Since that campaign, the same companies have spent millions of dollars more on advertisements telling West Australians why they believe their business benefits the community.
“I do not consider that to be a coincidence.”
Ms Davies said since coming to Opposition, The Nationals had put pressure on the McGowan Government to ensure the interests of West Australian taxpayers were balanced against a ‘development at any cost’ attitude.
“What we have argued is that the old way of doing business is no longer good enough, especially for regional communities which generate a great deal of wealth for these companies and overseas shareholders,” Ms Davies said.
“Our argument is centred on ensuring West Australians receive a fair share for our finite resources – and that comes back to licence to operate.”
The Nationals have attempted to initiate an inquiry into legacy State Agreements struck prior to 1970 to ascertain whether the agreements still represent a fair deal for the people of Western Australia as the owners of the resource.
“Our bid to have the Economics and Industry Standing Committee assess whether current commitments and responsibilities are contemporary in the context of modern State Agreements was flatly opposed by Labor,” Ms Davies said.
“In this new survey we now see that 250 mining executives from around the world agree that they must ensure their companies put community obligations first or risk losing their licence to operate.”
Ms Davies said the McGowan Government appeared to “pander” to the big companies, exemplified by the Premier’s comments in Parliament recently that he would “not allow anything to get in the way” of Woodside’s request for a 700-bed FIFO camp in Karratha.
“The Government has a role to maintain a healthy tension between supporting major projects and negotiating good and fair terms for the people of WA,” she said.
“That sometimes means driving a hard bargain to ensure there’s a real lasting legacy for communities impacted by major mining projects.”