Mining era goes on: BHP boss
BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie has used his first Australian speech to assure the nation it can continue enjoying strong wealth flows from the resources industry as long as it is prepared to improve its performance in crucial areas.
Despite political leaders increasingly suggesting Australia must adjust to a new era without a dominant resources industry, Mr Mackenzie said the Asian development boom would continue for a long time for those nations willing to do the hard work to win its custom.
Delivered exactly one month before the federal election, the comments effectively reiterated BHP's policy wishes on workplace relations, tax regimes, regulatory red tape and wages growth.
Speaking in Melbourne, Mr Mackenzie said there was no doubt that wealth flowed through Australia's economy from the mines of the north-west to the cities of the south-east, and the economic prosperity of recent years could be built upon if Australia chose its path well.
"There are even greater opportunities ahead. Global demand for commodities is expected to grow by up to 75 per cent over the next 15 years," he said.
"The question is not if Asia's demand for commodities will be met but rather which countries will deliver the supply.
"Australia is in pole position to do so ... but Australia must compete hard against both existing and emerging suppliers.
"For a country to secure investment, it must create the conditions for the resources industry to prosper ... industry and policy makers must now recommit to Australia's future competitiveness to make sure Australia remains a supplier of choice."
Mr Mackenzie said the party that won on September 7 must create a modern industrial relations framework that drew workers and employers "onto the same page".
He restated BHP's desire for a carbon policy that was in line with efforts overseas and fiscal policies that encouraged stability and open markets. "We want to sit down with whoever wins this election and think about the things that might be appropriate to promote competitiveness and productivity in Australia, of which tax is one," he said.
Mr Mackenzie's speech came just hours after Opposition Leader Tony Abbott revealed plans to cut the corporate tax rate if elected.
Mr Mackenzie did not say whether he wanted corporate tax rates reduced but reminded the audience that BHP was Australia's biggest taxpayer in the 2012 financial year.
Despite being dual-listed in London and Australia and with assets scattered all over the world, Mr Mackenzie said BHP was "a company firmly rooted in Australia".
The comments appear to be an attempt to strongly brand the company as an Australian voice on the world stage rather than a stateless multinational corporation.
Mr Mackenzie was tight-lipped on corporate issues before the company's full-year results presentation this month.
Rival Rio Tinto will report its half-year results on Thursday afternoon, with analysts expecting an underlying profit of $US4.23 billion. Investors will watch for indications of whether Rio will push ahead with expansion of its iron ore division.