The White Paper covers a lot of familiar ground. The key energy and resources message coming out of The White Paper is that strong long term growth will underpin strong long term demand for energy and resources.
While the paper warns of several potential challenges arising from this growth, such as disparities in incomes and living conditions between regions and Asian economies, these are generally regarded as being eddies in an overall strongly flowing stream.
Against this background, further development of Australia’s energy and natural resources assets is set to continue. The development of domestic Asian resources will continue but is facing increasing environmental and sustainability sensitivities – to the extent that the Australian requirements in these areas have been a comparative disadvantage this gap is expected to narrow over time.
The White Paper also discusses energy security issues. Strong growth throughout the Asian region will bring increasing competition for finite global energy resources. Energy security concerns are expected to underpin an increasing desire to secure diversified long term supply sources.
Australia’s natural resources will continue to be an important part of this diversified mix and we think will sustain and further increase the Asian interest in the entire spectrum of energy and resource development, production and export from Australia.
The White Paper reaffirms Australia’s expectations of strong long term growth in the Asian region and Australia’s ambition to be fully involved and engaged in that growth. From an energy and resources perspective the White Paper generally continues existing policy goals with some welcome affirmation of key issues for energy and resources participants.
However as many commentators have noted, the paper contains few concrete steps or specific proposals to achieve these goals – it is a “mile wide and an inch deep”.
Taken positively, this presents an opportunity for industry participants to fill in this detail and to identify and advance proposals for reform that align with the key national objectives identified in the paper.
Impact on your business
The White Paper does not provide detailed plans or policy prescriptions for energy and resource development.
However it identifies twenty five “national objectives” for 2025, reflecting the Labor government’s “five pillars of productivity”: education and skills; innovation; infrastructure, tax reform and deregulation.
All of the national objectives are laudable goals, and several are of particular relevance to the energy and resources sector.
The objective to implement a systemic national framework for developing, financing and maintaining a nationally significant infrastructure with at least a 20 year horizon is a welcome recognition of the importance of infrastructure to successful energy and resource development.
Similarly, the objective of an open and integrated economy – reducing migration and visa restrictions for low-risk visas, promotion of foreign investment and to an increased transparency in foreign investment approval processes will have few critics in the energy and resources sector.
And the overarching commitment to better integration – plans for broad based language skill development, cultural awareness and education and training with a specific focus on Asian markets will help erode barriers at all levels.
The key next step is to apply the high level principles in the paper in practice – to identify specific barriers to investment, integration, resource project development and to engage with government on how to remove them.
The policy positions outlined in the White Paper at least give a basis for this engagement and represent an expression of political will to drive these changes.