Remarks to the BHP celebration to mark 3 billion tonnes of iron ore exports to China


I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land on which this event is taking place, 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 in the audience.

On October 14 Australians will be asked to support a change to the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and to give them a say on matters that affect them.

BHP has shown their strong support for the Yes campaign and I thank you very much for that. 

The Voice is about listening so we can get better results. 

BHP knows the value of working with and listening to First Nations people. It is part of what has made you so successful. 

I urge everyone here who supports recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to speak with friends and family about the importance recognition of listening and voting Yes. 

My warm regards too to the Premier of Western Australia Roger Cook. The Premier is an important constituent of mine and a strong voice for the resources industry nationally.

Premier Cook understands the value of the resources industry to this state and the nation.

I acknowledge also Vandita Pant and Brandon Craig and the many other company and government representatives here. 

A special welcome to our international guests, and to Acting Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Perth, Mr Wang Fengzhong.

I am pleased that our Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced he has accepted an invitation to visit China on the 50th anniversary of Gough Whitlam's historic visit to Beijing.

Tonight we are celebrating a remarkable achievement: 

BHP exporting 3 billion tonnes of iron ore to China. 

This is an incredibly significant milestone not only for BHP, but for this nation and countries like China, that have worked with us to create a world leading iron ore industry. 

This industry has underpinned the economic development of Western Australia and remains the backbone of the national economy. 

This milestone is all the more amazing when you consider that there was a time when Australian governments thought our nation was so short of iron ore that exports were prevented on national security grounds.

On 18 April 1938, in response to the growing threat of war in Asia and Europe, the Commonwealth Government led by Prime Minister Joseph Lyons announced a ban on the export of all iron ore.

The government thought that there were only limited quantities available and it should be quarantined for the local production of steel.

But during the 1950s the Menzies Government invested heavily in mineral and fossil fuel exploration and large iron ore deposits were discovered in the Pilbara.

In spite of this, the embargo continued. No iron ore left Australia for foreign ports for almost a quarter of a century.

It was the Western Australian Government under Sir David Brand, after whom my electorate is named after, and the Minister for Industrial Development and the North West, Sir Charles Court, that worked with BHP and others to convince the Federal Government of Robert Menzies to lift the ban. 

On 1 December 1960 the Australian Government issued the first export licence for iron ore. 

Rapidly increasing Japanese demand for raw materials drove demand for iron ore and the industry took off.  

The embargo was officially lifted on 17 May 1966, rescinding all remaining Commonwealth iron ore embargoes. 

This decision led to increased iron ore exports to Asian markets – especially Japan and South Korea.

And then came China as it opened its economy to the wider world in the 1970s and 1980s.

We can be proud today that Australian iron ore, including from BHP, has played a part in creating the skylines of China’s great cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing.

BHP’s iron ore exports to China began fifty years ago in 1973 and have steadily grown over time. 

China now buys more than 80 per cent of Australia’s iron ore exports. 

Australia has the largest known iron ore reserves in the world, with almost all of them concentrated in the Pilbara.  

Australia produces half of the world’s iron ore exports.

BHP has four processing hubs supported by five mines, all located in the Pilbara.   

Not only do these mines provide revenue for Australia to build hospitals, schools and fund government services, the iron ore industry directly employs more than 45,000 Australians, with BHP operations in Western Australia engaging 12,500 contractors and employees.

The iron ore trade between Western Australia and China has changed our country for the better.

It has also helped China grow and flourish. 

Steel from BHP iron ore is used in all downstream sectors in China, such as infrastructure, buildings, machinery, ship building and automobiles, including electric vehicles.

Three billion tonnes of iron ore is a pretty difficult thing to imagine. When you stand on the edge of the Mount Whaleback mine in Newman, as I have, you get some inkling. But only an inkling. 

That 3 billion tonnes from BHP is enough ore to produce the steel for more than 35,000 Sydney Harbour Bridges, or over 7 million wind turbines to produce clean energy. 

The importance of Australia’s critical minerals to the clean energy transition is well known.

But it is equally important that Australia continues to supply the world with iron ore and metallurgical coal.

Both of these exports are essential to the production of steel at scale. And it is something everyone should be aware of. 

Steel has supported global economic development, raising standards of living for millions of people around the world.

Into the future, affordable steel will be required for a range of clean energy applications, including onshore and offshore wind turbines and transmission networks.

BHP has historically been in the forefront of mining innovation and a driver of industrial development.

BHP’s profits from Broken Hill powered Australia’s steel industry in Newcastle, Wollongong and Whyalla. 

As I have said many times, the road to net zero runs through resources. And that includes the production of steel with iron ore and coal.

We need more resources and more mining. And we need an expansion of mineral exploration.


Great opportunities await in our resources sector and we have to make the best of them.

Once again congratulations to BHP on reaching this remarkable iron ore milestone and best wishes for your endeavours in the future.

Thank you.