OPINION: Stop Shafting State's Miners

February 10, 2017

As appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 10th February 2017

Politics may be boring for some, but state politics in 2017 has so far been anything but boring.

Straight out of the gate we have a new Premier and a new Cabinet. Our new Premier Gladys Berejiklian made an early commitment to “govern for everyone”. It was a welcome commitment to reach out to the forgotten people, particularly those feeling disenfranchised in rural and regional NSW, to ensure their voices are heard.

If our politicians are serious about this then they need to look no further than the many regional mining communities across our state. Tens of thousands of mining workers and their families, along with thousands of local people working in mining supplier businesses want to be heard. And they have proven they are willing to use the ballot box as a way of doing so.

They deliver economic prosperity for NSW: the exports we rely on, the electricity we take for granted, the investment we need to generate economic opportunities in regional NSW.

They’ve seen the announcements of big spending on Sydney infrastructure. They’ve heard politicians offer sympathy, support and buckets of cash to other industries doing it tough, without barely a word of acknowledgment for mining. And now as the mining industry is doing much better again, there is hope and optimism creeping back.

These are some of the “forgotten people” that must be heard. It’s easy for our political leaders to notice the noisy protesters and the professional activists. But for every protester that blows into a mining town against any mining project, there’s hundreds workers, families, and small business owners who rely on mining for their livelihoods, and who want to be heard.

Politicians that ignore these communities will lose them to those that want to listen. The recent Orange byelection
was won by just a handful of votes. Nearly 2000 miners live in Orange and over 400 local businesses in Orange supply the mines. There are 4400 miners and more than 1600 local mining supplier businesses in the electorate of Upper Hunter, held
by a narrow 2.2 per cent margin.

Similarly there are over 700 miners and nearly 400 supplier businesses in the Tamworth electorate; 1400 miners and 280 supply businesses in the Bathurst electorate; 1800 miners and 330 supply businesses in the Cessnock electorate; 1825 miners and 445 supply businesses in the Maitland electorate; 1400 miners and 350 supply businesses in the Dubbo electorate; and over 400 miners and more than 100 supply businesses in the Illawarra seat of Keira. These places are
all represented by hardworking local MPs, and they need to be heard by our politicians in Sydney too.

Our new Premier and all our politicians have an opportunity to re-engage with these “forgotten people”. To recognise their contribution to the economic stability of NSW. To acknowledge the challenges of the last few years and implement policies that
support opportunities presented by improved market conditions, policies that protect mining jobs rather than threaten them. And to invest more mining royalties back into the mining communities that provide them.

Now is the time for our new Premier and the refreshed NSW Government to show our regional mining communities their voices will be heard, to make good on the commitment to govern ‘for everyone’.

Stephen Galilee is CEO of the NSW Minerals Council

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OPINION: Stop Shafting State's Miners

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