By Sarah Byrne

EMBRACING visionary style leadership and participating in all stages of the development of Australian projects is the key to Western Australia’s economy and resources industry succeeding, according to economist David Martin.

Speaking to Oil & Gas Australia at a recent Leadership WA luncheon, Dr Martin chairman of global financial institution M•CAM said commodity-sourcing enterprises see themselves and build themselves into high responsivity but they do not necessarily have high vision.

“A lot of the core technologies that are inexplicably part of the oil and gas sector are not happening here [Western Australia] and we are in fact intermediaries,” he said.

“Western Australian businesses have an enormous opportunity to actually innovate around the capacity and be part of the development.”

Dr Martin spoke to Leadership WA members about the importance of a visionary style of leadership, one that is rarely seen in the often conservative oil and gas space.

Australia hasn’t taken a commanding position and according to Dr Martin it should be competing in the development of technology for the oil and gas industry and participating more in the compression and refining stages.

“I think Australia has largely stood on the sidelines and let the US and European firms be the incumbent on the actual technology provision,” he said.

Therefore, the equity market value has been international and not domestic, resulting in a struggling Australian resources sector when it is hit with low energy prices and still has the burden of paying for the supply chain, Dr Martin said.

Participating in the entire economics and not just the industry itself is vital for Western Australia’s economy and the Australian oil and gas sector according to Dr Martin who used work by Petrobras in Brazil as an example of the way forward.

Dr Martin said when faced with the challenge of requiring a lateral drilling technique for seabed mining operations, Petrobras turned to non-incumbent players in the oil and gas space and looked at other technologies, such as medical stents used for cardiac surgery.

Petrobras took what they could from how the technology was used in medicine and applied it to their operating context in order to develop the technology it required for the project, according to Dr Martin.

For Australia to become cost competitive and have a healthy economy, particularly a resource driven economy like Western Australia’s, the opportunity is for the oil and gas sector to take leadership and engage in all aspects of the economy, Dr Martin said.

“The big challenge right now is to participate more in the entire economics, not of the industry itself, but the industry of financing the industry.”

“That is the bit that Australia has walked past for its entire life because it has been the participant in the downstream subsidiary, but it hasn’t been participating in the common equity in the mothership.”

Dr Martin told Leadership WA attendees that the economy, in particular the Western Australian economy needs courageous Australian leadership to drive vision, innovation and engagement.

Predicting a cultural shift, Dr Martin said there will be a big pivot in the way of thinking in Perth over the next 15 years.

Leadership WA chief executive Robin McClellan, who organised for Dr Martin to take part in Leadership WA’s leader in residence program, met him on a recent trip to Antarctica organised by The Unstoppables, a group of Australian entrepreneurs.

“Dr Martin was one of the most inspiring figures on our expedition – he is an innovator, communicator, and catalyst and his insights will deepen our discussion of the Leadership WA theme of natural resources and sustainability,” Ms McClellan said.