New Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston used his first public speech since taking office to argue that Labor’s proposed infrastructure reforms will help maintain WA’s status as a top investment destination.
Speaking to about 400 people at the WA Mining Club’s monthly luncheon at the Hyatt last week, Johnston was on familiar turf, having acted as Labor’s Shadow Mines Minister for nearly five years.
He reassured the audience that popular schemes such as the State Government’s Exploration Incentive Scheme would be retained, as would the Mining Rehabilitation Fund set up by the previous Liberal-National Government.
And – alongside trying to create more jobs, speed up approvals and cut red tape – Premier Mark McGowan’s new administration wanted to ensure there was a secure investment environment for the industry and the broader community, Johnston said
“Part of that is to develop a State Infrastructure Strategy,” he said.
The Labor Party was committed to creating Infrastructure WA, based on existing Federal and NSW models, to provide a “clear ranking of infrastructure projects so that industry has a stronger and more reliable way of knowing where the Government investment is going to be”, he said.
It meant there would be “less politics in individual investment decisions for Government infrastructure”, he added.
Johnston noted that WA was currently ranked fifth in the world’s top jurisdictions for investment and attractiveness to the resources sector.
“We want to make sure that the investment environment remains strong,” he said.
“Governments are facilitators and regulators but, at the end of the day, it is the private sector that makes the investments.
“What the Labor Government in WA can do is to work with you to take out unnecessary costs, and that is what we are committed to do,” he said.
CCI Chief Economist Rick Newnham says a separate infrastructure body would help take politics out of infrastructure.
“A long-term, bi-partisan infrastructure plan will enable business to plan for the future and help build business confidence required to grow employment in WA,” he says.
“Infrastructure WA will help take the politics out of the state’s critical infrastructure needs.
“When business has a clear picture on the infrastructure pipeline for the state they can plan their workforce and have confidence that that critical infrastructure needs are being addressed.
“Infrastructure WA will be its most successful with representation from industry included in its governance.
“If Infrastructure WA is implemented well, with business representatives included, we can avoid the politicisation of infrastructure projects which has ultimately impacted on business confidence and our state’s competitiveness.”