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Doorstop – Parliament House, Canberra

13 February 2019

Subject: CRC-P Critical Minerals, manufacturing, Coastal shipping sector

E&OE

The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP held a doorstop to discuss the latest Cooperative Research Centres Project grant opening.

Minister Andrews: Well good morning. It's an absolute pleasure to be here this morning to announce the next round of funding for CRC Projects. Importantly, this is a $20 million commitment from the Liberal National Government to support critical minerals here in Australia. So this is the first time that CRC Projects have targeted critical minerals. We know how important they are. So lithium for example, a critical mineral, it’s what's used in almost everyday circumstances in our batteries, in our mobile phones. So currently Australia produces close to 50 per cent of lithium global production. We want to make sure that we are capitalising on that. The projects that are part of today’s announcement will look at delivering real and tangible outcomes in the critical minerals sector. What we want to do with these projects is make sure that not only are we supporting the mining component of these minerals but also the value add. We want to grow the market here in Australia and, to use the lithium example, lithium is projected grow to about a $1.1 billion export by 2020 and globally the demand is likely to triple by 2027. Australia needs and wants to be part of that market but we, importantly, want to make sure that we are value adding so that it's not just digging these minerals up out of the ground; putting them on a ship and sending them overseas. It's actually building the tech sector here in Australia; growing our economy; making sure that we're looking after jobs not only in the mining sector but more broadly, in research, in production and in manufacturing. This is a great opportunity for industry-led projects. We're looking at industry taking the lead, particularly small and medium enterprises working with research institutions, to deliver real outcomes in critical minerals here for Australia. I'll invite Nola Marino, as the Member for Forrest, to say a few words on the impact for West Australia.

Nola Marino MP: Thanks Minister and this is a very important announcement, particularly when we know that the mineral sector has so much to offer in Australia. Lithium is a key part of that and I'm seeing that already in my electorate of Forrest in the south west of Western Australia with significant investment already happening in lithium. And for us as a government, it's also about the amount of jobs that actually go with this. We're seeing a significant amount of employment now being offered in the south west as a result of investment in lithium. So the government investment and the wonderful companies that will be part of this in Western Australia –  Western Australia, as you know, has so much to offer in this space and continuing with employment and additional opportunities through these rare minerals.

Minister Andrews: Thank you.

Minister Canavan: Alright. Thanks Nola, thanks Karen. Can I particularly thank Karen here for taking the forward thinking and progressive investment in our resources sector? We're backing our mining industry; we're backing our resources sector and we're backing what it provides to the Australian economy, to the Australian people. There's a lot more to Australian mining that you often think. We have unparalleled access to a diverse supply of minerals and metals that go into the production of many modern products, be it mobile phones, solar panels – we produce 10 of the 16 minerals that go into a solar panel. We have a greater share of the world's production of the minerals that go into producing a battery. Indeed we're one of the few countries in the world where you could make a battery from what's in the ground just in our country.

What we want to do as a government is make sure we don't just lead the world in the production of lithium ore, which we already do. We want to make sure that we create jobs in our manufacturing sector as well and we're doing that here today by backing those companies who want to have a go and take the next steps in lithium hydroxide production to anode or cathode production, perhaps one day and finally, ultimately, hopefully into the production of batteries as well and this funding that Karen has unlocked here will help those companies at the early stage do the research and development required to apply the best techniques to Australian conditions and give Australian jobs, Australian businesses the best chance to compete on world stage.

Can also recognise and thank the efforts of all the Western Australian members and senators. This is an opportunity for our whole country – lithium production is largely focused in Western Australia but there are many projects elsewhere in Australia – in north Queensland, a cobalt project and other important component to battery production in New South Wales; the CleanTeq project in Western New South Wales; another nickel cobalt opportunity – but it has been the West Australian members and senators that pushed this opportunity. Thanks to Nola, to Rick Wilson, Melissa Price and can I also – wasn't going to forget Linda – I want to particularly emphasise Senator Reynolds, who I think about seven or eight months ago, brought a roundtable with people from the west here to Canberra and it does – it is a demonstration of how the efforts of members of parliament can make a difference because Linda has really spurred us into today's decision and an overall strategy we are progressing to take the full advantage of the opportunities that Australia has in newer minerals and I think now, Warren is going to say a few words. Warren is the chief executive of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies and he represents a lot of businesses that are in this space.

Warren Pearce: Look, we're extremely supportive of this announcement. We've been calling on the government for the last 12 months to really recognise the opportunities for Australian businesses in going downstream particularly around lithium battery minerals. Today’s announcement is a really positive step; it will support Australian companies being able to develop the technical expertise that we need in order to go downstream and to add further value to our minerals. There is a huge opportunity for lithium battery minerals as they move into lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles and that is a quickly growing industry that will very quickly be one of the largest industries in the world. Australia can have a really big piece of that business. We're really confident that our companies can succeed in that space and today’s announcement will really give them that opportunity to get that R&D piece tucked away. So really supportive of today’s announcement; we really welcome the direction the government is taking on this issue. Thank you.

Minister Andrews: Thank you. Thank you very much and can I just reinforce that this is clearly an opportunity for industry and governments to work together in the best interests of an outcome for Australia. Happy to take any questions.

Question: You talk about jobs for Australians; any view on the seafarers out at the front who’ve lost Australian jobs due to shipping transport issues?

Minister Canavan: Look, the situation facing coastal shipping sector has been a tough one for many years. I think it's extremely unfortunate that the Australian Labor Party has not. supported the reforms that we have tried to progress for coastal shipping in this country. The system that Mr Albanese produced six or seven years ago has been a clear failure because it's continued to lead to an erosion of the competitiveness of Australian shipping. I'd like to see more Australian flagged shipping but we have to have a competitive sector and that's not one that can exist under the current laws and regulations. We have tried as a government to reform those in the Senate multiple times and been frustrated by Australian Labor Party that has been hijacked by a particular view and not supporting Australian jobs and industry. In regards to the specific issue around BHP’s decision; this is obviously a matter for BHP itself. As I say, what we need to do in this place is set the right conditions to ensure that Australian businesses can compete; in this particular instance the work that was being done by BHP has not been enough to be sustainable to keep these businesses going and that’s an indictment of the continued opposition of the Australian Labor Party to reform this important part of our legal infrastructure. 

Minister Andrews: Can I just add to that more broadly on jobs – jobs are front and centre of policy for the Liberal National Government. The statistics for manufacturing jobs, in particular, are very impressive under this Liberal National Government. Just in the last 12 months, there have been additional 74,000 jobs in manufacturing, which is an outstanding achievement, particularly when you compare it to Labor's record when they were in government, one in eight manufacturing jobs were lost. So we are committed to growing the manufacturing sector and of course today's announcement with the CRC Projects will also lead to future job growth particularly in the mining and the manufacturing sector.

Minister Canavan: Thank you. All good.

Minister Andrews: Alright.

Minister Canavan: Thanks Karen.

ENDS