BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie: Economy is sound – by Peter Ker (The Age – February 24, 2014)

BHP Billiton boss Andrew Mackenzie says he is optimistic about Australia’s economic prospects, despite the departure of the car makers and last week’s closure of the Alcoa smelter at Point Henry.

But Mr Mackenzie told Channel Nine’s Financial Review Sunday program the swath of job losses in manufacturing highlighted the importance of the nation uniting behind a single productivity agenda.

Mr Mackenzie has been particularly upbeat about the future of the Australian economy since taking over as chief executive in May, and his mantra that Australia still has ”everything to play for” has often been at odds with the gloomy prognoses of federal governments.

Mr Mackenzie has regularly urged Australia to help itself by reforming industrial relations, taxes and its productivity performance, and said the high-profile corporate closures were a reminder of that.

”To be pro-Australia for a moment I wish they hadn’t happened … but I have a global perspective, I see what happens elsewhere in the world and I still think Australia has an awful lot going for it,” he said.

”I think examples like Alcoa and other industries around there just simply underscore the importance of the whole country to get behind an agenda of competitiveness and productivity.”

Improving productivity and efficiency has been one of the prime focuses of Mr Mackenzie’s first year in charge at BHP, and the 31 per cent improvement in BHP’s underlying profit for the first half demonstrated the progress being made.
BHP’s share price was its highest in 29 months on Friday, and Mr Mackenzie said the productivity improvements in the iron ore and coal businesses were a good example for companies across the nation.

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