THE CONFERENCE CALLER: Western Australia Premier, Mark McGowan broke new ground at the opening of the 2020 Diggers & Dealers Forum in Kalgoorlie.
He faced the what would normally be, for a WA Labor Premier a fairly daunting task – to open what is often touted as the biggest gathering of the Australian – particularly the Western Australian – mining industry.
Pic: Courtesy – Billy Stokes
Fortunately for him, or most likely thanks to him, the state is currently in fine fettle.
During these times of COVID-19, Western Australia currently represents one of the best opportunities going around – on the planet.
Western Australia is currently the only state in the Commonwealth not in recession and its real estate, car sales and internal travel industries are going nuts.
McGowan became the first sitting premier, in the history of the Diggers & Dealers event, to deliver the keynote address, something he acknowledged by joking that the only way he scored the gig was to make sure he kept any other prospective candidates out of the state.
“What a year it has been,” McGowan declared.
“We have been fighting tooth and nail against a dangerous, health risk to our state.
“For the last eight months, we’ve been successful in keeping this invading threat out of Western Australia.
“This has benefitted the health of our citizens and subsequently the health of our finances.
“But now that we have successfully dealt with Clive Palmer, we can now turn our attention to COVID-19.”
The premier’s comedic banter was warmly welcomed by a room chock to the gills with an audience that would traditionally be considered rusted-on Liberal Party voters.
They most probably still are; however, it is difficult to deny that the stance McGowan has taken in regards to the state’s borders has allowed sandgropers to continue with life as they know it, and events such as the annual Kalgoorlie mining industry talkfest can be held with confidence.
Hitting a serious note, McGowan thanked the resources industry for how it had handled itself throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“2020 has been a volatile, challenging, and exhausting year,” he said.
“There has been no shortage of threats to projects and worksites. Let alone the imposition from restrictions put in place to keep us safe and COVID free.
“But all through this crisis the industry has handled itself well, understood what is at stake and worked with the government to ensure the industry can continue to operate safely, and virtually, uninterrupted.
“To keep the economic and financial lifeline it represents to Australia intact.
“As premier of Western Australia, I’d like to thank you all personally for your cooperation and understanding.”
McGowan’s eyes raised above the WA border as he began to wind up and take aim at the eastern states, commenting on how this difficult time had made sure the rest of the country could acknowledge the part WA plays in the prosperity of the entire nation, in particular the state’s mining and energy sectors.
“Western Australia carries the country,” he pronounced.
“Whilst the other premiers don’t like to hear that, it is true. This state, carries the nation.”
“Our net contribution to federal finances is many times – per person – the next highest contributor, which is New South Wales.
“We lead the country in economic recovery from COVID.
“When the crisis began earlier this year, we established a national cabinet as a means to quickly respond to what was, a very rapidly developing crisis.”
McGowan explained that one of the first points on the national cabinet agenda was the closure of certain industries, which at the time included the resources space.
This, he said, was something he railed against at the time.
“As we meet here today, over six moths later, I think we can all agree the hard work in Western Australia – and the sacrifice – were well, literally, worth it,” he said.
“We kept industry safe…we avoided the damage that happened where COVID has been allowed to run rampant.”
“The risk of shutdown is ever-present around the world. It means (commodity) prices are highly volatile.
“There is also a global recession that is going on around the world, meaning that the volatility from unpredictable growing levels of demand continues due to an ongoing economic contraction.
“Despite all the uncertainty and unpredictability…Western Australia, for my money, represents one of the best places in the world to mine, to set up, to hire, and to invest.
“Unlike so many other jurisdictions, we are virus free, with the strongest fundamentals in the world.
“If I were a betting man, I’d be betting big on WA.”