GREEN PAPER ON DEVELOPING NORTHERN AUSTRALIA

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) welcomes the Australian Government’s commitment to developing northern Australia. A large part of the minerals industry is located above the Tropic of Capricorn - an estimated 44 per cent of all minerals projects (mines, projects and early-stage exploration) and 37 per cent of all producing mines. The industry is a major contributor to the economic and social well-being of communities in northern Australia. With appropriate policy settings, the prospects for further growth are good – minerals projects worth an estimated $111 billion have been publicly announced or are under feasibility study.

The Government’s Green Paper provides a valuable framework for analysing the challenges and opportunities facing northern Australia and the policy directions that could tackle them. The MCA supports the broad approach to the Green Paper, including close integration with national policy initiatives. In some cases, northern Australia may serve as the focal point for trialling new approaches to long-standing national policy challenges.

The minerals industry can and should remain an indispensable pillar of northern Australia’s development, but gains are not assured. It is essential that policy and regulatory frameworks are conducive to capturing future development opportunities. The challenge for northern Australia – as it is for Australia as a whole – is to position itself as a premier investment location and stable, secure and cost competitive supplier of minerals resources.

The Green Paper’s focus on creating a regulatory and economic environment that reduces unnecessary costs and fosters private sector investment is the right one. To achieve this objective an integrated package of policy reforms will be required. Important progress has been made with the repeal of the carbon tax. The minerals industry also strongly supports the proposed “one-stop shop” reforms aimed at streamlining environmental assessments and approvals while maintaining high environmental standards.

Stable and competitive taxation and royalty arrangements are also critical to reducing costs and red tape to stimulate mining investment. Repeal of the MRRT would add to industry confidence in northern Australia, as would a clear statement in the forthcoming White Paper that current Fuel Tax Credits, Fringe Benefits Tax and exploration tax arrangements will be preserved.

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