Here I reflect on my time as AMEC councillor, first in 1987 and again in 1990–92.
A friendly reminder
I am regularly reminded of AMEC’s effectiveness in an extremely pleasant way – I receive a cheque in the mail from one of those paralegal services that monitor ‘unclaimed monies’ that find their way back to central Treasury.
So what’s the AMEC connection? In 1992 we were sitting around the AMEC board table discussing the unacceptable manner in which the state government was charging us survey fees on tenements that were never surveyed and in many cases were surrendered prior to any survey. We lodged a submission with the state government claiming $6 million in refunds to prospectors and mining companies for surveys that were not completed.
I’ve shifted address a few times since then and often my survey refunds get caught up in the ‘unclaimed monies’ process. So it’s always a pleasure when I receive another surprise payment for several thousand dollars. Three cheers for AMEC’s vigilance on behalf of its members and the industry generally.
The challenges ahead
I enjoyed my two terms on the AMEC council last century. It’s interesting to see how many of the obstacles we encountered then resemble those faced by the industry today. Certainly the anti-mining lobby remains strong and vocal in this state.
Widespread anti-mining sentiment presents a serious challenge, a challenge against which we must always hold clearly in our minds the productive and prosperous future that mining offers this country. I have total confidence in AMEC’s ability to respond with vigour to this challenge. But we have a part to play too.
This is our responsibility as defenders of a much maligned and little understood industry, one in which we have invested so much in terms of technology, capital and labour, but so little in terms of philosophy or psychology. I’ve seen mining executives unable to defend themselves from abuse from their teenage children about their involvement in the mining industry. This is a scandal.
We must shoulder our burden with our eyes firmly fixed on the future, but recognising the realities of today. We cannot count on governments to fully understand our contribution to the nation or to appreciate the benefits that will flow from policies that result in less interference and more mining. Each of us, as executives and individuals, must make the effort to understand our various industries and learn to take part in public policymaking.
We must make our views known and inform the public, so that balanced and realistic policies are produced. If we simply settle for being spectators in all this, we will continue to lose the battle. We are fortunate with the range and quality of our resources media and we need to work more closely with them. Opportunities to represent ‘productive Australia’ should not be wasted.
In this endeavour, mining and exploration organisations must work together, understanding each other’s role in our overall objectives. If all the current and separate mining organisations coordinate their activities with some overall guiding philosophy, we could become a powerful force and achieve so much more.
This is something that we should seriously contemplate because there are dozens of different secondary ideals within the industry at large, ideals which threaten to split us up into different factions and undermine our efforts to further our mutual goals. As the benefits of working together become obvious, we may find the many mining groups – the drilling organisations and service organisations – would come onside.
Working for the common good
I’m not talking about creating a new organisation, with a name and a hierarchy of office bearers and egos. I’m talking about networking, about setting aside egos and personal agendas in recognition of the common good that can be achieved through joint endeavour.
The whole community has to be involved if Australia is to have a satisfactory future. That’s our biggest challenge and it reminds me of the words of one of my favourite Austrian economists, Ludwig von Mises:
“Success or failure of endeavours to substitute sound ideas for unsound will depend ultimately on the abilities and the personalities of the men who seek to achieve this task. If the right men are lacking in the hour of decision, the fate of our civilisation is sealed. Even if such pioneers are available, however, their efforts will be futile if they meet with indifference and apathy on the part of their fellow citizens. The survival of civilisation will be jeopardised by the misdeeds of individual dictators … Its preservation, reconstruction and continuation, however, require the joint efforts of all men of good will.”
For thirty years AMEC has vigorously engaged and long may it continue to do so.