Thursday, 29 November, 2018
The HRF Centre partnered with Singleton Shire Council to host a Parliamentary hearing in Singleton in November.
The Centre helped to organise the testimony of 18 Hunter people from 14 organisations to the inquiry into how the mining sector can support businesses in regional economies.
Professor Will Rifkin, Director of the HRF Centre, and Dr Anthea Bill, lead economist, addressed members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources about the effects of boom-and-bust cycles on the Hunter and other regional communities.
Dr Bill described the marked difference in economic trends in the Hunter when compared to New South Wales, as a whole. She said that a decline in global coal prices to around US$56 a tonne saw a 15 per cent decline in employment in the Hunter region between September 2013 and March 2015. This decline compared to a 1.1 per cent increase in employment across the state.
This bust phase was followed by a recovery phase. From March 2015 to July 2018, there was 20 per cent growth in employment in the Hunter balance versus 10 per cent in the state overall.
Professor Rifkin and Dr Katherine Witt, from the University of Queensland’s (UQ) Centre for Coal Seam Gas, presented findings from research on Queensland’s Darling Downs during its natural gas boom. The research developed the UQ Boomtown Indicators.Their approach has gained international recognition as a benchmark for assessing rural and regional change.
The HRF Centre, in collaboration with other regional universities, is proposing to employ the UQ Boomtown Indicators approach nationally, at the behest of Parliamentarians addressed at a hearing in Newcastle last year. The idea is to do fine-grained profiling of a set of economic and social indicators for 50 bellwether communities across Australia.
“Australia’s regions are facing significant challenges from the roller coaster ride of economic cycles in the mining sector, shifts in agricultural prices and changes in exchange value of the Australian dollar,” Professor Rifkin said. “This approach can raise the capabilities of businesses, local government and community providers around the country.It would build on successes of the pilot in Queensland.”
Other organisations represented at the Singleton hearing on 5 November included: Singleton and Cessnock Councils; the Hunter, Muswellbrook and Singleton Business Chambers; The Bloomfield Group, Glencore, Hedweld, the Australian Industry Group, Hunternet and Forsythes Recruitment.