2012 Kevin McCann Lecture on Energy and Resources Law: Mitchell H Hooke CEO Minerals Council of Aus.

19 September 2012


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Complacency, Backsliding and Envy are the Real Enemies of Sustainable Development. A lecture on the current challenges to the Australian mining and resources sector.

Australia is entering stormy waters. Indeed, there are all the ingredients of another "perfect storm". Unlike the confluence of events that precipitated the global financial crisis, this time key factors are of our own making.

The "mining boom" is not over. It is different. The underlying fundamentals of demand have not materially changed, just evolved. It is the supply side and Australia's capacity to compete for global custom that has markedly and acutely changed. Supply has caught up with, even exceeded, demand. Commodity prices are easing, and margins shrinking in the face of escalating costs. As the industry necessarily shifts from an era of price-led growth to volume-led growth, Australia is found wanting, increasingly vulnerable to competition from resource-rich emerging economies.

The strongest terms of trade in 150 years (driven by higher mineral commodity prices) has been masking the emerging structural deficits in Australia's economic circumstances. An increasing costs structure, declining productivity and a deteriorating sovereign risk reputation are undermining Australia's competitiveness and attractiveness as a place to do business in a highly globalised industry and world economy.

National complacency, economic policy reform inertia (and in some cases, back-sliding on three decades of pro-market reforms) and the politics of envy focused on the redistributive, rather than the productive, side of the economy, are all contributing to Australia's vulnerability.
The opportunity cost in constraining Australia's supply capacity is diminished national prosperity, not so much from my generation's perspective, but for future generations. This threatens the fundamental tenet of sustainable development - that today's generation does not compromise the capacity of future generations to prosper.

Few contest the underlying imperative of sustainable development, nor the equanimous consideration of its three fundamental pillars - environmental and social stewardship and economic development. This equation has been popularly and properly viewed through the prism of ensuring that environmental management and social welfare are pillars of equal imperative to economic development. But I suspect few appreciate that the economic pillar similarly needs servicing. It cannot be on auto-pilot, particularly if it is headed in the wrong direction.


Mitchell H Hooke (Mitch) has been Chief Executive Officer of the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) since June 2002. The MCA is one of the nation's most significant industry bodies representing minerals exploration, production and processing.

Over the past two decades, Mr Hooke has made a significant contribution to the development of Australia's trade, economic and industry policy, across the mining, food and grocery industries. He is recognised for his knowledge and strategic leadership in public policy and practical issues affecting industries' contribution to Australia's sustainable development.

He was recently named the University of New England Distinguished Alumni recipient for 2010 - "in recognition of his contribution to the nation's social and economic welfare through strategic leadership and development of public policy."

Mr Hooke is also internationally active in global policy advocacy as a member of the Full Council of the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) and Chair of its 40 member Associations Coordination Group. He is also engaged at the "coal face" of business as a Non-Executive Director of several companies based in the USA and Australia.

Mr Hooke was raised on a sheep property in Victoria's Western District, educated at The Geelong College and completed a Bachelor of Rural Science at the University of New England in Armidale, NSW. He is also distinguished as a sportsman as Captain of the All Australian Intervarsity Australian Rules Football team and Captain of the UNE Cricket XI and was admitted to the University's Sportsman's Hall of Fame. Mr Hooke is married with three adult daughters, based in Canberra (ACT), and has a horse property in the Southern Highlands, Bowral NSW.

Time: 6.30-7.30 (regristration and refreshments from 6pm)

Location: Sydney Law School, Law Foyer (level 2), Building F10, Eastern Avenue, University of Sydney

Cost: Free however registration is essential

Contact: PLaCE Coordinator

Phone: (02) 9351 0323

Email: 0116344c0905501418070a3e0f100f234f1e260019463738