Mining alive and well: Barnett

Reports of the decline of the State's mining industry have been greatly exaggerated, Colin Barnett has told a major gathering of international diplomats in WA.

Opening the fourth In the Zone conference at the University of WA yesterday, the Premier told delegates mining was "suddenly unfashionable again" before taking aim at commentary suggesting the industry was "done and dusted".

"There's a continual commentary that investment has dried up and we have gone from an investment stage to production and there won't be much more happening," he said.

"That is absolutely false. It is the most clumsy and inaccurate piece of economic analysis I have ever come across. Right now in WA alone there is $150 billion worth of resource projects under construction."

The broadside appeared at odds with his own Government's recent description of WA's economy being in "transition".

"In recent years, business investment in major resource projects has been the main driver of growth in our economy," former treasurer Troy Buswell said while delivering the last State Budget in August. "However, as these major projects transition from construction to production, exports will become the major driver of growth."

In response to a question about US-China relations and how Australia managed ties with both, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said neither asked us to choose.

"I don't see a situation where our relationship with either would be of detriment to the other," she told the conference, attended by 80 ambassadors and diplomats from the WA time zone, which contains 60 per cent of the world's population.

National Australia Bank and Woodside chairman and UWA chancellor Michael Chaney said education would continue to be a major Australian export.

"Twenty-one per cent of students at UWA are from overseas," he said. "There will be literally millions of people in Asia educated in Australia."

Macquarie WA chairman Mark Barnaba described the Federal Government's mooted deficit levy as an inefficient wealth tax. "We should take our 120-odd taxes, reduce them down to 10 to 15 by having a GST - a consumption-based tax," he said.

The West Australian

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