The West

Gillard urges miners to recruit  local workers
Julia Gillard addresses the conference today. Picture: Michael O'Brien/THe West Australian

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has urged the mining industry to recruit Australians willing to work on projects rather than bring in temporary skilled migrants.

Ms Gillard told the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies conference in Perth today there were 16,000 job seekers now registered on the new Jobs Board and more than 1400 jobs to be filled in the industry.

"These are hard-working Australians looking to your industry for a chance," Ms Gillard told the conference.

"The nation as a whole is looking to you as well.

"Yes, migration has a place but it's not going to be the cure-all that some may think."

She said construction and manufacturing workers were available in Hobart and Adelaide where there has been a softening of activity in the industry.

Mining firms were holding jobs expos in the United States rather than on the eastern states of Australia, she said.

"I don't want the mining industry to hire a single foreign worker if there is an Australian who can do the job," Ms Gillard said.

However, she recognised there was a shortage of skilled workers in some sectors, adding that that "angered" her.

She added that the government was investing in skills and training.

She also says she believes reports declaring the end of the mining boom have been exaggerated, but concedes the commodity price boom phase has passed.

Ms Gillard said there was uncertainty in the global economy from depressed conditions in Europe and US, as well as a softening in Chinese growth as it rebalances its economy.

At the same time, there is competition from other resource economies in the southern hemisphere, and while coal and iron ore prices are off their highs, so are those for zinc, nickel and mineral sands.

"I also know that investment decisions are becoming more complex as projects become more complex,” Ms Gillard said.

"But let’s be clear, reports of the mining boom’s death have been exaggerated."

She said a mining boom has three distinct phases - a prices boom which is now passing, an investment boom that is still to reach its peak, and a production boom as all that effort comes to fruition in the decades ahead.

She said China is still only 50 per cent through its process of urbanisation and industrialisation.

"India is yet to undertake the most dramatic stage of its rise, to say nothing of the development we expect to see in south east Asia, South America and Africa over the next 50 years,” she said.

The retiring WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore, speaking at his last AMEC conference, said Ms Gillard had brought the rain with her to WA, which would please the farmers.

“But she would please all of you if she took the Minerals Resource Rent Tax home with her,” he said, to applause.

Earlier, AMEC chief executive Simon Bennison, who introduced Ms Gillard, warned politicians needed to address the “dire state” of greenfields mining exploration amid new federal taxes on the sector.

“Where are the Australian entrepreneurs who take risks against the odds, who fail time and time again in the hope that one day a profitable mine can be developed,” he said.

“Increasingly, the answer to this question is Africa, South America, Canada, Scandinavia, somewhere outside of Australia, applying their skills and Australian capital where the business environment is more conducive to success.”

The West Australian

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