AWU should get behind our biggest export industry

Reports today that the Australian Workers Union (AWU) Conference on the Gold Coast will pass a resolution condemning companies that have invested tens of billions of dollars developing Australia’s greatest export industry takes empty grandstanding to new heights.

Australia’s export earnings from iron ore were $75 billion in 2013-14, up from $57 billion in 2012-13.

That increase of $18 billion alone was more than the combined exports of wheat, beef, cotton and wool last financial year.

The notion that low cost producers in Australia should forgo export opportunities and cede valuable export dollars to international competitors makes no sense.  Far from preserving jobs, it would cost jobs.  It would also sacrifice government revenues from company tax and royalty payments; revenues that go to paying for hospitals, schools and other infrastructure that benefit all Australians, including AWU members.

Australian producers operate in a highly competitive global iron ore market.  As the Reserve Bank of Australia pointed out in its February Monetary Policy Statement, the bulk of Australian iron ore production is at the lower end of the global iron ore cost curve and the increase in export production is a product of investments to take advantage of Australia’s high-quality resource base.

Claims of anti-competitive conduct do not stand scrutiny.  No less than ACCC Chairman Rod Sims has said as much.

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