SANDRA GOUDIE: What are the economic benefits from environmentally responsible mining in New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources) : There are many economic benefits. Mining in New Zealand is a $2 billion industry, and in 2009 exports were worth about $1.1 billion. Including workers in oil and gas, the industry employs about 6,000 people. Jobs in the industry are well paid, at double the national average, and jobs are highly productive, contributing to GDP, per worker, at six times the national average rate.
So far; so good. Brownlee gives a straight answer suggesting that there are indeed significant economic benefits to New Zealand from the mining industry. And then come the supplementaries:
Sandra Goudie: Has he seen any evidence of support for the mining industry in New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have seen a great deal of evidence of support for the mining industry in New Zealand. Indeed, I have some photographic evidence here today to show the House of some members who support mining in New Zealand. The photograph shows the Hon Damien O’Connor, the Hon Trevor Mallard, and a New Zealand Amalgamated Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union official standing outside the Rūnanga Miners’ Hall, when Mr Mallard was launching a document about health and safety in underground mining. It will come as no surprise to members that this photo was taken during the 2008 election campaign.
Sandra Goudie: Are there benefits to members of seeing firsthand the operations of mining in New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, I believe it is beneficial for members to become familiar with mining operations in New Zealand. To prove that Mr Mallard’s commitment to mining is not short, I have this photograph to show the House. It shows Mr Mallard fully kitted-out in his little miner’s suit, about to go down the pit. This photo was taken when the Labour Party liked to identify with mining as the industry that was its birthplace.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask the member to table the photos so that I can have a copy of them.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not believe the photos are official documents.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave for those wonderful documents to be published.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am unable to seek that leave, Mr Speaker, as these documents already have been published.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the House has had enough fun on that one.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is there any further evidence of why there is interest in support for the mining industry?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It would appear that fresh from Mr Mallard’s visit down the mining pit, with the exhilaration of coal dust still up his nostrils, he must have told such wonderful stories about the experience that his colleague the Hon Phil Goff was encouraged. For those who cannot recognise him, he is the guy on the end of this photo. He was encouraged to put on his gear and go down the mining pit. This photo is from a time when Labour was proud to support workers and proud to support the mining industry in New Zealand.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is rather unfair that they have not shown the photograph of me when I went down the mine.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I understand the problem was that when Annette King when down the mine, the workers were scared to come out. In order to accommodate the Hon Trevor Mallard’s request, I seek leave to table these three wonderful photographs, which have previously been published. I am sure that if Mr O’Connor contacts my office, we will make a PDF for his next electorate newsletter.
Mr SPEAKER: I have previously ruled out tabling photographs and that kind of thing.
This wasn't quite as much of a command performance as Big Ger's Brokeback Mountain speech before the Christmas recess, but it went close. It has to be said that Labour members took it in good humour, and Annette King even applauded Brownlee's final offering at her expense.
But it shows one thing in particular; it's going to be hard for Labour to get traction with their opposition to mining when they supported mining whilst in government. As we've noted before, they simply can't rewrite history, no matter how hard Phil Goff tries.