Is the mining boom back?
While everyone was on holidays, the price of iron ore has shot back up to $US158 a tonne.
It was iron ore’s slump to $US86 a tonne at the end of last year that sparked fears of the end of the mining boom.
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A TAX that doesn’t raise a cent?
The sorry saga of the mining tax continues after revelations that Australia’s big three miners - BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata - paid not a single cent in the first three months of this financial year.
No one emerges as a winner in this political stoush; not Wayne Swan, not Joe Hockey and definitely not taxpayers, the ultimate owners of the nation’s precious mining resources.
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Let’s not beat about the bush. Tony Abbott tells lies. So what? Is there anything surprising about that? After all, he’s a politician.
But it needs to be pointed out because the central message from Abbott supporters is that the prime minister is the liar - Ju-liar, in fact, according to the likes of Alan Jones. The opposition leader is portrayed, and portrays himself, as the epitome of honesty. A man whose word can always be trusted.
Abbott’s lieutenants were even pleased when he was tossed out of parliament on Monday because it got his offending comment - accusing Julia Gillard of lying - into the headlines.
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All those rocks and vapors we have been selling to overseas customers by the boatload have protected Australia from the economic frailty of other countries and made it a freak of the industrialised world. So any suggestions revenue from those gasses and gravel is likely to fall steeply is a matter of huge concern.
Particularly at a time when the Government is facing higher and additional bills while scrambling to present a minimalist Budget surplus.
Thus the trepidation is understandable when giant miner BHP Billiton defers a $30 billion Olympic Dam expansion in South Australia because of, in part, “subdued commodity prices”. Is this the the first sign of the minerals bubble deflating?
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There’s only one circumstance in which a corporate profit of over $15 billion looks disappointing. That’s when you made $23 billion last year.
The multinational mining giant formerly known as the Big Australian announced a massive US $15.4 billion net profit yesterday afternoon (simultaneously on stock exchanges around the world, reflecting the global behemoth it has become).
It was reported in some places as ‘BHP profit down 35 per cent’. That’s true. But then last year’s $23 billion mega profit was up 80 per cent on the previous year, knocking all previous corporate profit records out of the park.
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As the Senate debates the Mining Resources Rent Tax legislation it occurred to me that, for all the political posturing and economic ‘forecasts’ amid significant uncertainty and complexity, there is another way forward.
At the Adelaide Festival of Ideas forum, ‘Resource Rich or Dirt Poor’, held in Adelaide late last year about the proceeds from the mining boom. I asked, “If BHP and Rio Tinto together endowed Universities in Australia with $10 billion by 2015, a) Why would they? And b) What would be the implications”?
Fanciful? Naïve? …Or not? The immediate response from the panel was a cynical, “Well, yes, why would they”? And if they were to make such a donation it would have to be put through a ‘cleansing’ institution, a Government agency to ensure that the funds were put to appropriate use.
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Going on strike for a week is a big call. It’s never a decision workers take lightly and it happens rarely.
But this week, over 3,500 coal mine workers from seven central Queensland mines operated by BHP have made that call.
The week-long strike comes after many months of smaller stoppages. But when you’re negotiating with one of the richest companies in the world, it takes something dramatic to get their attention.
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It’s just as well Margaret Olley didn’t work for BHP Billiton.
Apart from the fact that her artistic skills wouldn’t have been much use in the whole global mining caper, there’s the small – and extremely messy – matter of her work station.
Since Olley’s death late last month, much has been made of the cluttered and chaotic Sydney terrace in which she lived and painted.
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By now you may be aware of the offensively Draconian nanny state mandate handed down this week to the fine employees of BHP Billiton.
The memo entitled, Mine Kampf: BHP’s Office Environment Standard And Glorious Five Year Plan, outlines a thousand and one workplace bugbears that the BHP politburo have declared no longer negotiable, punishable presumably, by pain of performance review.
It’s a grossly heavy-handed document, undermining the worth of the employees who deserve respect not only for making BHP the success story it is, but also just for being humble and honourable members of the human race. And it would be an indefensibly deplorable document of foolscap fascism, if it were not for one tiny problem: as a rule, you people are f#$king disgusting.
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It’s a management case study that will live on in textbooks for decades.
Just weeks after banning employees from leaving post-it notes on computers or eating lunch with strong odours, resources giant BHP has announced a whopping great profit of $A22.5 billion, up 85.9 per cent.
Of course it wasn’t only the absence of messy post-it notes that pushed profits into the stratosphere. There was also the company’s nation-wide crackdown on jackets slung over the backs of chairs. Oh, and record prices for Australian coal, iron ore and gas.
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We’ve had factional thugs and faceless men, dishonourable rats and bloodsuckers, slap-downs and sabre-rattling – union officials have hit the front pages over the past week in all their rhetorical glory.
We’ve even declared war on shiny arses, although I have to admit I’m still not entirely sure what a war on shiny arses is.
But the most startling thing to me is that these exchanges have made front-page news. A bit of argy-bargy between union leaders, politicians and bosses is fairly standard practice in Australia. And some colourful language in the mix is nothing new. It’s called open, democratic society.
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Last year BHP helped prove that crying wolf works, provided you crank the volume up to 11. Along with the other mining giants, they managed to convince Australians that paying anywhere near a fair amount of tax would somehow cripple their companies – and the nation.
We know now how the scare campaign played out: a Prime Minister was rolled, a new one installed and the Resources Super Profit Tax became the Mineral Resources Rent Tax.
Within 24 hours this week, in what can only be attributed to a divine act of timing, Australians have discovered how much mining wealth the nation lost and how quickly it’s made by those who squealed so loudly. Yesterday, BHP Billiton announced half-year net profits had surged 72 per cent – to $10.6 billion dollars.
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Spare us the whingeing woman. Julia Gillard whinges that an Opposition member elected as an endorsed Coalition member won’t defect to the ALP to help her out.
She’ll “honour parliamentary reform” she says but she won’t honour her election promise to the Australian people that “there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead”.
“Be a realist – circumstances have changed” chanted Gillard on Sunday morning TV. How we might ask?
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