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Peter Beattie a good choice for resources champion

25 August 2011 2,363 views No Comment

IT may only be a part-time position but appointing former Queensland premier Peter Beattie to the newly created position of resource sector supplier envoy is a smart move by the federal government.

Beattie has a strong history in resources and value adding. He changed Queensland’s energy policy in 2000 by requiring 13 per cent of Queensland’s generated energy to come from gas leading to the state’s billion-dollar coal-seam gas industry. Another 2 per cent of generation had to come from renewables. It was a case of using a policy lever to achieve a very significant economic outcome for Australia.

When Beattie retired as premier in 2007, Queensland had a AAA credit rating, mining was booming and its budget was in the black. His smart state strategy had seen the emergence of a whole new biotechnology industry and the research institutions it spawned at Griffith University, the University of Queensland, QUT and James Cook have become drivers of research and economic activity. Virgin Blue established its headquarters in Queensland as part of an aviation strategy that ended up employing 6000 people.

Beattie promised an unemployment target for Queensland of 5 per cent when the rate of unemployment for the state was about 10per cent. When he left office in 2007 the unemployment rate was 3.7 per cent. Since July 2004 the Queensland unemployment rate had been lower than the national rate. He also initiated the biggest infrastructure plan in the state’s history.

Unfortunately for Beattie, the Bligh government has struggled since Beattie’s exit and will have difficulty getting re-elected. The divisions between farmers and miners, for example, over the expansion of the gas industry has been a typical lack of sound follow-up policy over the past four years.

As premier he established government and industry links in China, Japan, Korea, India and across the Americas. As trade and investment commissioner for the Americas he has high-level resource industry contacts in the US, Canada and across Latin America. He is also well regarded by the coal and mining industries, in Queensland and Western Australia, but criticised by the Greens because of his strong support for the coal industry and the development of clean-coal technology.

Accordingly, Beattie has the detailed knowledge necessary to go to the next step of ensuring Australian companies benefit from the procurement of work associated with the billion-dollar expansion of LPG in Queensland and the export of gas from Western Australia.

Former Victorian premier Steve Bracks has a similar envoy role with the automotive industry.

The federal government in the last budget announced a package called Buy Australian at Home and Abroad aimed at increasing Australian industry participation in the resources sector.

Its measures included the creation of a high-level forum involving the resources sector and Australian industry with senators Kim Carr and Martin Ferguson working at the strategic level to identify opportunities for the development of manufacturing and technology businesses from the resources boom.

The strategy included the appointment of supplier advocates to develop enterprise capabilities with up to 180 small to medium enterprises.

The measures also include the engagement of a resources sector supplier envoy to champion Australian industry participation in the resources sector and assist in the establishment of the forum. Beattie’s experience as a state minister for trade and trade commissioner will be invaluable.

The primary focus of the resources sector supplier envoy is to promote Australian industry’s capabilities and competitiveness to resource development projects in domestic and global markets.

Beattie will champion Australia’s manufacturing capability to national and international companies; facilitate Australia’s industry access to global supply chains and provide feedback to the government and industry and development strategies. It is a long-term strategy but it makes sense.

The Australian

August 25, 2011