Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BHP Billiton boss plays down Clive Palmer's "bastards" & "mongrels"swipe at China

The chief executive of BHP Billiton has played down Clive Palmer's comments that the Chinese are "bastards" and "mongrels" who shoot their own people.

Andrew Mackenzie says the relationship that BHP and the Australian government has with China remains warm and strong despite Mr Palmer's slap-down.

But the federal government has attacked Mr Palmer's comments about Australia's biggest trading partner as "hugely damaging" while the Chinese Embassy has branded them "absurd and irresponsible".

The diplomatic war of words overshadowed  a 23 per cent jump in BHP's full-year net profit to US$13.8 billion which in large part is from its trade with China.

Mr Mackenzie told AM that Mr Palmer's swipe, directed at the state-owned firm Citic Pacific, is unlikely to cause long term damage to either BHP or Australia.

"I believe that the strength of our company's relationships and the relationships that are enjoyed at government level and also many other companies are warm," Mr Mackenzie said.

"The mutual regard for the quality of our product, the security of our supply, are the ones that are going to rank more highly .. in the minds of the Chinese.

"China can see through that and the vast majority of Australians and how they relate to the Chinese people  and their country."

Mr Mackenzie sought to characterise Mr Palmer's comments on the ABC's Q&Aprogram as personal as the the federal government cautioned the mining magnate not to misuse his political postion.

"They're comments by an individual and you know, they're not on behalf of any other Australian supplier. And I do repeat that I think the quality of the relationships and the way in which companies like us and many others is what will actually be the bigger picture that'll be seen by most if not all Chinese. "

The head of the world's biggest miner also weighed in on the government's difficulty in getting key Budget measures though the Senate and agreed the impasse was a threat to business and consumer confidence.

Not surprisingly, Mr Mackenzie called for the urgent repeal of the minerals resource rent tax (MRRT) which was one of the Abbott government's key election pledges.

"I am concerned about that. I'm very supportive of the Government's agenda to build the competitiveness of Australia," Mr Mackenzie told AM.

"Something like the MRRT raises very little revenue, is highly volatile, and is no basis for strong fiscal planning in the country. And yet for many potential investors this is quite a disincentive to invest."

But Mr Mackenzie had a pragmatic response to growing calls for a Budget "reset" or a mini-Budget to smooth passage through the Senate - and to win approval from Clive Palmer's PUP which hold the balance of power.

"Look, I'm a businessman and they're politicians and politics is the art of the possible. I leave that to them."

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