Address to the AustCham Hong Kong and Asia Mining Club

Delivered virtually


Hello to all from Perth.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which I am speaking from, the Whadjuk Nyoongar people, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present. 

I extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are watching.

You may be aware that Australia will soon have a referendum on whether to grant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples recognition in the Constitution and a voice to Parliament. 

To those of you listening in the audience who are eligible to vote, I urge you to support this change and to do all you can to encourage others to vote yes. 

There are some 100,000 Australians in Hong Kong. So that’s a lot of yes votes. 

Talk to your friends, your family and work colleagues about voting yes next time you make a call home. 

It is a great pleasure to speak at this event hosted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and The Asia Mining Club. 

I thank the President of AMC Greg Fournier and AustCham Board Director Jason Chang and members for the opportunity.

Can I also acknowledge the acting Australian Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau, Alistair McEachern. 

Australia’s prosperity has been built on mining

When we talk about links between Australia’s resources sector and Hong Kong the focus is usually on gold. 

Hong Kong as you might know is the world’s fourth largest importer of Gold, behind Switzerland, China and the UK, and is the second largest consumer of Australian gold in the world after China. 

Hong Kong is the gateway to Asia’s gold and jewellery markets, feeding the region’s hunger for the precious metal. 

Australia is of course one of the world’s largest gold producers.

Australia’s modern economy was forged by the gold rushes of the 1800s. 

Melbourne and my hometown of Perth were both built on the back of gold fever.  

Kalgoorlie’s Super Pit gold mine, one of the world’s largest open cut mines, owes its existence to a discovery in the 1890s. It is still producing gold today and Kalgoorlie is still thriving. 

Australia now stands on the cusp of a new resources boom. But this boom promises more than economic benefits. 

It is also our best hope to fight climate change. 

Australia’s resources and net zero

Australia is a trading nation. 

That is how we pay our way.

The Australian mining industry provides 75% of the country’s exports. It is the reason for Australia’s high standard of living and rising incomes.

The resources industry pays for our hospitals and schools. Our energy resources heat homes and powers industry across Asia. 

Australia’s resource and energy export earnings reaped a record $460 billion Australian dollars in the financial year just gone – led by iron ore, coal, gold and base metals like aluminium, copper, nickel and zinc. 

It is the largest employer in some towns. As I said before many Australian towns and cities owe their existence to resources.  

Across Australia the resources industry directly employs more than 280,000 people.  

Our resource riches include the vast iron ore deposits of the Pilbara, our gas fields and coal. In particular, metallurgical coal which is still essential for producing steel at scale.  

In the darkest days of COVID-19 pandemic our resources sector continued to deliver for the nation.

In my home state of Western Australia, isolation from the east coast states and good management by the State Government allowed major resource projects to keep running throughout COVID.

The result was that Western Australia’s economy not only outperformed that of the East Coast states – it was one of the strongest in the world at the time. 

This was a good thing not just for WA, but for our trading partners that rely on us. 

Australia’s resources are vital to other nations.

Australian iron ore built the great cities of Asia. It’s very likely the building you are sitting in right now contains steel made from Australian iron ore. 

And Australia knows how important it is for nations to have a reliable and affordable gas supply as they transition their grids to renewable energy. 

Gas will be an essential fuel into the foreseeable future, including in firming up the energy grids as renewable energy assets increase.

Japanese and South Korean demand, and their significant capital investment, have underpinned the development of Australia’s LNG industry, on both our east and west coasts. 

Knowing how important Australian gas is to the region, I have commissioned a Future Gas Strategy to ensure we have our policy settings right and can continue decarbonise and supply reliable and affordable energy to our customers across Asia. 

This strategy will help governments, industries, and communities make decisions for the long term. 

This strategy will support decarbonisation and maintain our international reputation as a trusted trade and investment partner.

Our nation is determined to be both a strong energy trade and investment partner, as well as a positive contributor to global energy security and decarbonisation.

The path to net zero runs through the resources sector.

Reaching net zero will require more mining, not less.  

If the world is to achieve its global emissions reduction goals we need to mine the raw materials to feed the production of the next generation of clean energy technologies.

That means we will need more iron ore to build wind turbines. More copper for electrical wiring. And we will need Australian gas and coal to process and build all of these things. 

Critical minerals are driving radical change in the technologies that power our homes, offices, factories, vehicles, and communication devices.

Critical minerals are essential ingredients in the batteries, solar panels and windfarms that we will need to reach net zero. 

They are essential inputs for a range of advanced manufacturing, aerospace, and defence applications.
Demand for these technologies is projected to skyrocket over the next three decades.

This means more demand for lithium, cobalt, graphite, and rare earth elements, among others.

Our nation is the world’s leading producer of unprocessed lithium, and we produce 79% of the world’s hard rock lithium, with exports forecast to reach $16 billion this year. 

We are the world’s third largest cobalt exporter and the fourth-largest exporter of rare earths. 

We are also the fourth largest exporter of mined copper and nickel and a significant producer of aluminium.

So while the global transition to net zero is a great challenge, it is also an enormous opportunity for Australia – for our resources sector and the workforce it supports.

The extraction and refining of critical minerals needs to become, I think, something of a national mission, akin to the foundation of our iron ore industry in the 1950s and our LNG export industry in the 1990s.

To drive this effort, the Australian Government released a new Critical Minerals Strategy. 

It outlines significant investments and further actions to develop the sector.

The aim is to establish Australia as a global supplier of raw and processed critical minerals by 2030.  

The critical minerals strategy will target $500 million of new investment into critical mineral projects through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. 

The Australian Government’s Critical Minerals Development Program also recently provided close to $50 million in grants for emerging upstream and downstream projects.

But we cannot achieve our critical minerals objectives alone. And it would be a mistake to think we can outspend much larger economies in the form of subsidies. 

Instead the core of our Critical Minerals Strategy will be to work with our international partners to build diverse, resilient and sustainable global supply chains.

One example is the new Australia-United States Climate, Critical Minerals, and Clean Energy Transformation Compact.

The Compact will ensure Australian projects are at the front of the queue in winning access to the billions in US dollars being put into clean energy projects by the Biden Administration. 

Under the Compact, I will be involved in a taskforce that will work with industry leaders to develop and expand reliable, responsible, and secure global access to critical minerals. 

Attracting more global capital to our shores will be essential for us to realise the full benefits of these opportunities. 

Hong Kong by is Australia’s fifth largest source of total foreign investment, with a stock of $126.9 billion at the end of 2021.

Like any country, Australia makes decisions in its national interest that help to build its domestic economic capabilities and enhance its competitiveness.

Australia’s foreign investment framework strikes a balance between ensuring that we remain an attractive investment destination, while maintaining community confidence in foreign investment and protecting Australia’s interests.

At the same time of course the government will always closely review proposed foreign investments in mining tenements and critical minerals businesses, to ensure they are not contrary to Australia’s interests. 

Australia is working to build new, diverse, resilient, and sustainable supply chains.

Australia will not just export our minerals; we plan to develop industries onshore that can add value to them.

We want to attract investment in strategically important projects and develop an increasingly skilled workforce. 

At the same time we want to promote Australia as a world leader in environmental, social and corporate governance performance.  

The Australian Government is also supporting the mining sector through the National Reconstruction Fund and Powering the Regions Fund.

The NRF will have a target investment level of at least $1 billion for value-adding in resources to grow Australia’s minerals processing capabilities. 

Our Powering the Regions Fund supports investments to reduce emissions in existing industries and fosters development of new, clean energy industries and workforces.

And Australia’s Net Zero Authority will ensure workers, industries and communities that have powered Australia for generations can seize the opportunities of Australia’s net zero transformation.

The government is also diversifying trade and investment opportunities. This includes Free Trade Agreements with the United Kingdom, India and the European Union and the pursuit of new trade and investment opportunities with key regional partners.


Back to Kalgoorlie. 

Some of you might have attended the annual Diggers and Dealers forum in Kal. 

Traditionally it has been Australia’s premier event for junior gold explorers spruiking their projects. 

But the latest conference finished just a few weeks ago was the first in which critical minerals projects outnumbered gold projects. 

This is a sign of the change that is now upon the resources industry. 

A change for the better. 

We must continue to take measures to make the resources sector stronger, while continually working to reduce emissions.  

A flourishing resources sector will benefit Australia and our trading partners and greatly contribute to the achievement of net zero.

Thank you