Queensland Resources Media Club address

Brisbane

Thank you to the Queensland Resources Council for hosting this event, and for this opportunity to speak.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Turrbal and Jagera Peoples, the traditional custodians of the lands we are meeting on here today.

I would like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the Elders past and present, to those who have passed before us, and to any members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community who are attending here today. 

Beyond that, I would also like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands and waters throughout Australia, on which the resources sector operates

It’s great to be here in Queensland. 

Something Western Australians and Queenslanders have in common is that we get the resources sector. 

Like the combination of iron ore and metallurgical coal, the respective resource strengths of our states, the resources sector provides a steel spine for the Australian economy.

We get that the sector has moulded Australia’s past, is a powerful force today, and will shape our future. 

There is no doubt the events of recent years have challenged the sector, but it’s remained strong and will continue to flourish. 

State of the sector

In 2021-22, the sector exported an estimated $414 billion worth of resources to the world. 

This represents over three-quarters of the value of our exports. 

And in 2019-20, the sector contributed around $37 billion in government revenue to the nation, helping to fund essential services for all Australians.

The future looks bright, too.

Global demand for resources is projected to grow at a steady rate over coming decades.

Growing populations, economic development in emerging economies and the transition to clean and renewable energy will drive this growth.

And we’re all aware that Australia is globally recognised as an attractive destination for mining and resources investment. 

In fact, the Fraser Institute survey of mining and exploration companies consistently finds Australia is one of the most attractive regions in the world for mining investment.

Of course, in the context of the entire country, Queensland is a resources powerhouse.

Resources are worth tens of billions of dollars to Queensland, and the sector contributes enormously to the quality of life of every Queenslander. 

The sector employs over 75,000 Queenslanders and accounted for over $70 billion worth of exports from Queensland last financial year.

Traditional resources underpinning the transition to net zero

Against that backdrop, the energy landscape is rapidly changing.

The transition to a lower emissions economy will see significant changes to our energy mix over the coming decades.

This is absolutely needed to set Australia – and the world – firmly on the path to net zero.

It’s why we’ve committed to lifting the ambition of Australia’s 2030 target, and legislating Australia’s 2030 and 2050 net zero targets. 

Our target of 43% emissions reductions by 2030 is a huge step-up in Australia’s ambition. It’s almost double the previous government’s target. 

On the road to achieve these ambitious targets, we see the resources sector as part of the solution – not as part of the problem.

Australia’s resources sector has the means and the motivation to deploy the technologies at scale to reach net zero. Mass deployment of renewables, carbon capture and storage, fleets of battery - and hydrogen - powered mining vehicles will all help drive down the cost of clean energy technologies and make them more accessible.

Our coal and gas projects will keep our lights on, our workshops operating and our homes warm while we make the most sweeping set of changes to our energy grid the country has ever seen.

Australia’s copper, metallurgical coal, iron ore, aluminium, tin, zinc, nickel, cobalt, lithium, gold, silver and rare earths are crucial to the wires, batteries, magnets and semiconductors that power clean energy technologies.

Without Australia’s resources sector, the world doesn’t have net zero. That’s why, far from walking away, we’re 100 per cent behind you.

Here in Queensland, coal and gas continue to support a significant portion of local jobs, as well as supporting Australia’s energy needs and providing reliable energy for our trading partners. 

And let’s not overlook the role traditional energy resources play in providing enormous benefit to the wider community. 

Their economic and social contribution to many regional areas of the country is significant.

The coal mining sector, for instance, has made a crucial contribution to the development of Australia’s resources industry.

And it continues to do so.

The sector provides jobs, energy security, royalties and makes an essential economic contribution to many regional areas, especially right here in Queensland.

The coal industry paid over $10 billion in royalties to state governments in the 2021-22 financial year, including an estimated $7.3 billion in Queensland.

These royalties ensure a fair return to the Australian people for the development of our coal resources and allows investment in crucial infrastructure such roads, hospitals and schools.

In the 2021 financial year, the nation’s coal industry provided more than 50,000 direct jobs for Australians across the country.

Significantly, many of these were located in regional Queensland.

Australian coal also plays a key role in meeting the energy needs of the region. 

The industry exported over 350 million tonnes, worth over $100 billion in the last financial year. 

This is only the second export commodity, after iron ore, to reach this export milestone.

International Energy Agency modelling shows demand for our coal from developing economies is projected to increase over the next decade to satisfy demand for electricity and industrial development.

Australia is a long-term, reliable energy supplier and I assure you the Australia Government is committed to being a stable and secure destination for investment. 

I am committed to a consultative approach when considering reforms that impact the sector.

Governments need to manage the transition carefully.

That’s where the traditional resources sector comes into play again.

The coal and gas sectors will ensure secure and affordable energy supplies as economies make the move to clean energy sources as quickly as possible.

The Government understands that natural gas is the ally of renewable energy and will support the addition of more intermittent energy sources.

But right now, gas users on Australia’s east coast are increasingly concerned about their access to affordable and reliable gas.

Industrial gas users are concerned about their ongoing international competitiveness if current domestic gas prices are sustained. 

The Government will ensure Australian householders and businesses continue to have access to reliable energy supplies.

We will take whatever steps are needed to avoid a repeat of the crisis we faced in early June.

We will carefully balance meeting energy needs at home with LNG producers’ contractual obligations, and our commitment to working with international partners to address global energy challenges.

We want to work with gas and LNG producers in Australia to secure industry-led solutions. I thank the producers on Curtis Island and their joint venture partners for their constructive participation in discussions so far as we drive toward a more sustainable gas supply system on the east coast.

This Government is also committed to working with the governments of the states and territories, who are responsible for regulating gas supply in their respective jurisdictions.

I applaud the Queensland Government’s commitment to increasing domestic gas supply to help avoid the forecast 2023 east coast shortfall. I note since 2015 the Queensland Government has released more than 20 000 square kilometres of area for gas exploration that must be sold exclusively to the domestic market.

I encourage the Queensland Government to consider releasing even more acreage under its domestic gas reservation condition.

Ultimately, the best solution to the tight domestic and international gas markets is to boost supply. The Queensland gas industry is doing the heavy lifting to ensure there is adequate supply in the two most populous states in the nation. I know that the Queensland gas industry is working hard to boost supply, while supply elsewhere is in rapid decline.

I will continue to work with you, Australia’s gas and LNG producers, as well as state and territory governments, to encourage new supply.

Overall, even as we are moving to a decarbonised energy system, coal and gas will continue to heat our homes and keep manufacturing going for many years to come.

In short, if projects involving these traditional energy sources stack up environmentally, economically, and socially, we will support them.

Critical minerals opportunities

Turning to the future of our resources sector, we sit on the precipice of an exciting new era with enormous opportunities ahead.

Clean energy exports like green hydrogen, renewable energy, green steel and aluminium all have huge economic potential.

However, I’d like to focus today on the opportunities that lie in a sector that will play a pivotal role in the future of our resources story.

I’m referring to critical minerals, where Australia’s potential is vast.

There is no doubt critical minerals will increasingly play a major role in the world’s transition to renewable energy. They underpin nearly every key technology which will support the transition.

This trend is already well underway.

Global demand for these minerals is rapidly accelerating, driven by global decarbonisation efforts, and growth in demand for electronic, communication and military technologies.

In fact, the International Energy Agency forecasts a doubling of minerals required for clean energy technologies globally by 2040. 

In particular, the relative demand for growth is particularly high in battery-related minerals.

Electric vehicles and battery storage will account for about half of the mineral demand growth from clean energy technologies over the next two decades. Indeed, the International Energy Agency predicts that to meet all the decarbonisation and electric vehicle ambitions of national governments, a further 60 lithium mines will be required by 2030.

The demand for lithium is also reflected in the astonishing growth of lithium prices which, according to Bloomberg, averaged over US$4,650 a tonne in July 2022, a more than sevenfold increase compared to average prices over 2019.

With this growth in mind, we find ourselves in an enviable position.

Australia boasts some of the richest deposits of critical minerals reserves in the world. 

For instance, we have the world’s largest resources of rutile (titanium), zircon (zirconium) and tantalum.

And our resources of critical minerals like antimony, cobalt, lithium, manganese ore, niobium, tungsten and vanadium, rank in the top five globally.

This presents us with an unmissable opportunity.

Our critical minerals sector has the potential to make a major contribution to meeting and diversifying major global supply chains.

This will expand our export base, especially to regional and remote areas of the country, including here in Queensland.

That’s why the Government is positioning Australia to be a world leader in exploration, extraction, production and processing of critical minerals. 

We have countless opportunities, not only because of our significant resources reserves, but also due to a number of highly prospective projects that can leverage our mining equipment, technology and services expertise and talent.

We also have some of the most robust environmental and labour practices in the world, producing world-class sustainable resources. 

This provides a point of difference and a competitive edge for our resource producers. 

We will work to showcase these credentials to our trading partners to ensure Australia is a supplier of choice because of its ethically produced and sustainable resources.

As we speak, we are working with our international partners, state and territory governments and industry to unlock opportunities in the critical minerals sector.

In doing so, we are bringing investment and economic opportunity to regional and rural areas, boosting regional economic growth and creating jobs.

At the same time, we are playing a fundamental role in addressing the global challenge of climate change.

So it’s a win-win.

Supporting the sector

Critical minerals are a terrific example of the opportunities that are opening up as we transition to a low carbon economy.

But we are also conscious that the changing energy landscape, including supply disruptions, inflation and the global squeeze on energy presents challenges for the Australian resources sector.

We are prepared, and the Australian Government will support the sector through those challenges via a range of initiatives we are working hard to put in place.

Our resources sector will need clear policy signals and access to skilled staff as it transforms to meet this challenging environment. 

The Government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund and our Powering Australia Plan will help provide the support needed. 

The $15 billion Fund will provide loans, guarantees and equity to support projects that create secure well-paid jobs, drive regional development, and invest in our national sovereign capability, broadening and diversifying Australia’s economy.

Of this, $1 billion will be allocated to the Value Adding in Resources Fund. This investment will expand Australia’s mining science technology capability, creating jobs and ensuring a greater share of our raw materials are processed in Australia.

Programs like the Powering the Regions Fund will help develop new clean energy industries and support the decarbonisation priorities of the industry.

Support for New Energy Apprentices will encourage Australians to train in the new jobs of the future, and to provide the additional support they need to complete their training.

And, through a New Energy Skills Program work, the Government will work with the states and territories, industry and unions to ensure workers have access to training pathways that are fit-for purpose

With the mining workforce already around all-time highs, and projects worth tens of billions of dollars coming through the development pipeline, there will be a significant need for more workers.

I have just come from a resources sector jobs and skills roundtable that I convened with key stakeholders.  

It was informative to listen to the sector’s take on tackling labour and skills shortages in Queensland and I look forward to hosting another resources-focused roundtable in Perth. 

The forthcoming Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra, hosted by the Treasurer, will be where I put forward approaches, informed by these two roundtables, on how best to maximise jobs and opportunities in the resources sector. 

To attract and retain more workers, the sector needs to draw upon those under-represented in the sector.  

Women make-up 18 per cent of the sector’s workforce and it is critical that governments and industry work together to ensure we have safe and inclusive workplaces that welcome and encourage women to have rewarding careers in the mining sector.

Conclusion

I would like to finish by paying tribute to the resources sector for its achievements and its contribution to both Queensland and Australia’s economy.

When Australia’s resources industry is successful, the country is successful.

When Australia’s resources industry grows, Queensland prospers.  

That’s why we are right behind the sector.

I note the concerns by some in the room today and this morning regarding the Queensland Government’s decision to increase coal royalties.

The Australian Government has itself been meeting with international partners regarding the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism extension and review. While our domestic energy security is it the forefront of our minds, it is equally important to maintain our reputation as a stable, reliable trading partner. Australia will continue exporting vital commodities like coal into the future, powering and building our region. 

We’ll do what we can to continue to ensure our resources sector thrives, providing the state and the nation with a pipeline of secure, well paying jobs and a buoyant economy for years to come.

And I am looking forward to working with all of you along the way.

Thank you again for having me. 

ENDS