(Australian Associated Press)
Australia’s resources sector is being challenged by the global downturn in commodity prices but can look to better times ahead, Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane says.
Mr Macfarlane has told a industry conference in Port Augusta that demand for many resources and energy products is expected to increase in the medium term, fuelling the next wave of investment as commodity markets adjust and the Australian dollar weakens.
“Many opportunities exist for the Australian industry to support the immense development needs of countries in our region,” he said.
“As industrialisation in China, India and Southeast Asia continues to gather pace, energy and mineral resources will continue to be in high demand.”
However, the minister also acknowledged the difficulties currently being endured by the resources sector, with oversupply and prevailing low prices leading to a drop in exploration and new mining activity.
Across Australia mining sector employment in the June quarter was down 13 per cent as many companies recorded significant losses.
Local companies had also been hit by competition from low-cost countries and some faced the added challenge of retaining skilled staff and accessing the necessary finance to support growth.
Mr Macfarlane said all these factors had prompted the sometimes “apocalyptic” tone to commentary surrounding the resources sector.
“Any downturn is cause for concern,” he said.
“But having a go at the industry doesn’t help. It disregards the big picture including the industry’s continuing contribution to the Australian economy.”