Aust mining needs rethink: Nasser

By a staff reporter

Australia's resources industry has reached a tipping point and a rethink of the role the sector plays in the national economy is long overdue, BHP Billiton Ltd chairman Jac Nasser says.

In an address to the Australian British Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne, Mr Nasser warned the resources industry cannot simply be an income source when governments need revenue. 

"Australia's resources industry is a major part of the national economy," he said.

"Given the continued growth in China and Asia, over the next decade the potential investment and jobs created could be as big as the last ten years."

The resources industry had a crucial responsibility for it's own future and to improve productivity as it represented 50 per cent of exports and was a significant taxpayer, Mr Nasser added.

However it needed to be a national priority as almost every Australian had a financial stake in the success of the resources industry, including indirectly through superannuation.

Combined effort required

Mr Nasser said the Australian industry had the potential to be the best in the world, but it would require the combined efforts of companies and government.

He reaffirmed his view that on a government level, the two key levers that make a positive difference to the resources industry are a fair tax system and a robust and fair industrial relations framework.

"These two levers...have always supported the confidence that generates long run investment, productivity and wealth creation," he said.

Mr Nasser said the industry had historically been, and should continue to be, one of Australia's greatest competitive assets, but warned of stronger, smarter competitors.

"Our industry is the driving force for Australia’s opportunities and is aligned with every Australian’s aspiration for a better life," he said.

"Australia’s resources underpin the once in a century urbanisation and industrialisation of countries like China and India."

Companies need to focus on productivity

Mr Nasser said in order for the industry to become "the world's best" companies needed to look in their "own backyard."

"We need to run our businesses more efficiently, more flexibly and at a higher level of productivity," he said.

Mr Nasser added productivity was much more than having fewer people and less equipment.

"Productivity is also about getting more from what we put into our business and wasting less, to increase our competitiveness and attractiveness to global capital – and to protect the environment," he said.