NSW Premier surprise guest at mining safety conference dinner

In a closely guarded secret, New South Wales Premier, Kristina Keneally attended the safety conference of the New South Wales Minerals Council.  Keneally (pictured right) had previous attended NSWMC functions but in her capacity as the, then, Planning Minister.

Her speech contained a fair amount of politicking as one would expect from a politician in an election year but regrettably safety got less attention than one would expect.  The Premier spoke more generally about her government’s achievements under her leadership and how she was able to set, and enforce, clear performance benchmarks in the previous Planning portfolio.

Dr Nikki Williams NSWMC spoke very highly of the minister, as one would expect, but had to tread a fine line in complements so that she would not be seen as endorsing the Premier in an election year.  Williams instead praised the person and praised very highly.  Clearly there is a mutual respect between the two women that could proceed into a useful business/political relationship.

Premier Keneally stressed the economic significance for the State as a resource for power generation and other essential goods as well as a major employer and government revenue stream.  Keneally spoke of  how mining attracts opposition but spoke of a “circle of responsibility”.  She said that if each of us want to enjoy the prosperity and standard of living we enjoy then we need to consider our roles in generating that expectation of comfort.

Other matters touched on by the Premier were the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (just because the Federal plan is shelved does not mean companies should not continue to reduce their carbon emissions), environmental objections and harm minimisation, her role in the National health reform agenda, and the upcoming State election.

She spoke of the national plans for the reform of the taxation system and offered in principle support.  As others have said, it is very early to understand the Federal Government’s intentions and she listed several elements in the proposal that require much more consideration.  Keneally stressed that embracing the goal of a fairer tax system she would  not negotiate on the interests of New South Wales citizens and businesses.

She did acknowledge that the mining sector is genuine in its commitment to safety, the Premier has been in underground mines herself, and that her government is supportive of that commitment.

It is a significant win for the NSWMC to have the Premier attend their conference dinner and to hand out the innovation awards and it was impressive to see one of the most intriguing Australian politicians in the flesh but safety could have been more prominent.  But, in many ways, the NSW Government does not have a lot of good news on OHS.  It’s WorkCover authority has been slapped down by the High Court in a significant decision earlier in 2010 resulting in a serious review of the authority’s enforcement activities.  And any legal reform in OHS is being handled on a national level through the harmonisation program.

The mood of many at the conference was that political change will come with the Liberal Party winning the next election but if the Labor party retained power, however unlikely, Keneally would be a strong political force who could take the hard decision of ejecting all the Labor Party deadwood and baggage.

Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones was a guest speaker at the NSWMC conference.

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