Mike Baird’s last chance to save NSW business

August 27, 2014

Originally published in The Daily Telegraph.

NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee

Before the last federal election, Ford announced it was closing its Australian car manufacturing operation, axing the jobs of about 1200 workers.
 
The Gillard government went into damage control — a $51 million ­assistance package for affected communities, followed by an injection of $9 million from the Victorian government. With the NSW election looming, Mike Baird and the NSW government are now facing their very own ‘‘Ford moment’’.
 
Thousands of NSW jobs are at risk, with an impact potentially more serious than that of the Ford closure.
 
At least 3000 mining jobs have ­already gone in NSW over the past two years. Many more people have lost their jobs in the thousands of businesses that supply mining.
 
These jobs are gone, but the NSW Government can act to save thousands more, and it doesn’t require millions in assistance.
 
Some 1800 Hunter Valley families are on a knife edge as they await planning approvals for Coal and Allied’s Mount Thorley Warkworth project and Anglo American’s Drayton South project. Failure to sign off on these projects will send an economic shockwave across the Hunter Valley and beyond, as direct jobs go and many more indirect jobs are lost.
 
Yet, with the stroke of a pen, the NSW Government can save these jobs and also deliver a multi-million dollar royalty windfall to NSW taxpayers. If approved, royalty revenue from the two projects is estimated to be worth $65 million each year or $1.5 billion over the life of both mines.
 
That would be a handy boost to the state budget at a time when it is most needed.
 
Signing off on these projects would also earn approval from voters.
 
Opinion polling by respected ­researchers Crosby Textor consistently puts support for mining in NSW at 70 per cent. People understand that mining is critical to our state’s future and they want jobs protected.
 
These results are also reflected by the public submissions received by the Department of Planning for the Mount Thorley Warkworth proposal. Of the submissions, 1891, or 85 per cent supported the project, compared with 352 objections.
 
Importantly, about 90 per cent of the positive submissions were from the Hunter Region, demonstrating strong local support for the project.
 
It’s a test for Premier Baird. His very own ‘‘Ford moment’’, minus the need for an assistance package. Sign the approvals, protect jobs, deliver a budget windfall, and demonstrate that NSW really is open for business.

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