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Olympic Dam expansion vital to SA: Abbott

Sat August 18, 2012 7:49pm

SOUTH Australia risks becoming like Tasmania, permanently stuck in the slow lane of a two-speed economy, if the Olympic Dam mine is not expanded, says federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

His South Australian counterpart, Isobel Redmond, agreed, saying most of the economic indicators put SA just above Tasmania and "our relevance as a state has all but vanished" under the state Labor government.

"There are rumblings through the community and business sector at the moment to the effect that it (the expansion) may well not go ahead at this stage," she told reporters on Saturday at the state Liberal annual general meeting in Adelaide.

Earlier, Ms Redmond confidently confronted speculation about her leadership, saying that unlike Elvis Presley "I have not left the building". She told the party faithful she would be the next premier.

Mr Abbott told the meeting the proposed Olympic Dam mine expansion was vital to the economic future of South Australia, but the only way to make it happen was to abolish mining taxes.

South Australia was a great state with a great future, he said. However, the proposed expansion of the copper and uranium mine would determine whether it became more like Western Australia or more like Tasmania.

"This is a great state, but it is a great state at the crossroads," Mr Abbott said.

"If we want to ensure that South Australia is not permanently stuck in the slow lane of a two-speed economy, we have got to have the Olympic Dam expansion.

"That is vital for the economic future of the state."

BHP Billiton has until the end of the year to give the $30 billion expansion the final go-ahead or face the need to renegotiate approvals with the state government.

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