Support mining jobs to lessen regional inequality

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Supporting Australia’s world-class mining companies to create more high-wage, high-skill jobs is the best way to strengthen regional communities and lessen inequality.

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 are better off because of the mining industry thanks to higher average incomes, larger profits and increased tax revenues.

The commission found that mining regions continue 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.

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.

The Federal Government should back Australian mining companies and the regional communities which they support 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
  • Instituting 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
  • Promoting taxation reforms which reduce Australia’s internationally uncompetitive corporate tax rate
  • Ensuring that energy and climate change policies are nationally coordinated and recognise the energy and resources-intensive nature of the Australian economy and allow least-cost COemissions abatement, including through access to international offsets.

The submission also outlines a range of specific reforms which should be instituted to reduce regional inequality in Victoria – including removing resource development restrictions on lignite and gas and speeding up project approvals – and the Northern Territory, which should not discourage mining investment by imposing a punitive royalty regime.

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