BHP Billiton's chairman is calling for a summit to head off a fall in Australia's international competitiveness and bring about the biggest economic reforms since the 1980s.
Jac Nasser made the call during a speech to a business lunch on Thursday, warning that the record commodity prices of the mining boom of the past decade might never return.
During that period Australia has slumped to 14th place in labour productivity around the globe. BHP and the resources industry should bear some of the blame, but so too should governments and unions, Mr Nasser said.
The keys to building economic growth and confidence to invest were a fairer tax and industrial relations system.
That raises the prospect of a return to the controversial Work Choices reforms of the Howard government, which restricted employees' ability to collectively bargain.
"The best way to do it is really what happened back in the 1980s where everyone sat down," Mr Nasser told reporters.
"Decide what level of productivity is needed on a national basis, beyond the resources industry, and what type of compatible framework would help.
"That needs to involve part of all the organisations so we've got some alignment between everyone, so it isn't always confrontational on this, confrontational on that.
"Whether its fair work, fair choices, Work Choices or choice work, I don't think it really matters." The adversarial approach to industrial relations had seen the cost and time associated with managing disputes grow, he said.
"The way governments and unions look at this industry also has to change," he said.
A drawn out industrial dispute at BHP's coking coal mines last year led the then resources minister Martin Ferguson to warn unions to temper wage expectations as the mining industry's costs soared.
Mr Nasser also defended how much tax the industry paid.
BHP paid $9 billion to federal and state governments - out of $20 billion from the industry - last year, representing a 45 per cent tax rate and the same amount spent federally on higher education.
His comments follow criticism of mining tax laws that have generated little revenue and speculation that the government wants to crack down in the budget on loopholes that are allowing miners to use tax breaks.
If Australia got things right, the continued growth in Asia meant that over the next decade Australians would benefit from investment and jobs as big as the past 10 years, Mr Nasser said.
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