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Rania Spooner

June 6, 2012 – 1:08PM

Marius Kloppers . . .  "People simply are not not willing enough to move to Western Australia."Marius Kloppers . . . “People simply are not not willing enough to move to Western Australia.” Photo: Torsten Blackwood/AFP

Workers from the east coast of Australia could be less willing to relocate than foreign counterparts in Canada and the United States, because they tend to go to university where they grew up, according to the BHP Billiton chief executive Marius Kloppers.

Mr Kloppers warned against rigid regulation of the Australian mining sector while markets remain volatile, in a speech that avoided a clear message on the company’s plans for major projects, in Perth today.

Taking aim at the finer details of the carbon tax and weighing into the foreign worker debate sparked by Hancock Prospecting’s application to bring 1700 foreign workers onto the Roy Hill project in the Pilbara on an enterprise migration agreement, Mr Kloppers said flexible regulation would factor into the nation’s ability to attract investment in the future.

BHP has not had the need to consider applying for an EMA, something Mr Kloppers said was due to the strength of BHP’s existing labour force in WA.

But Mr Kloppers said attracting labour was an issue for companies trying to enter the market while its hot.
“Arguably the biggest challenge that we’ve got is labour mobility,” he said.

“People simply are not not willing enough to move to Western Australia.”

He said while there were structural barriers preventing people moving West such as tax differences, Mr Kloppers suspected some other factors could be at play.

“Anecdotally my personal observation would be that particularly on the east coast people tend to study in their own home towns and that sets the basis for ‘I’m going to live where I grew up’,” he said, adding that the price of coffee in Perth could also act as a deterrant.

Mr Kloppers said he believed moving workers in Canada and the US interstate was easier because of the cultural contrast, where students tend to be sent away from home to study.

Labour mobility was not entirely to blame for increased operating costs though, Mr Kloppers said any decision on royalties and other taxes would have lasting effects on the nation’s ability to attract investment.

“Australia’s future prosperity depends not on investments that have been made in the past but on ensuring that we continue to attract investment flows in the sector in which we arguably have the greatest competitive advantage,” he said.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/aussie-workers-not-mobile-enough-kloppers-complains-20120606-1zvgd.html#ixzz1x08MbIUv

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