Resources Statement to Parliament
There are few bigger global challenges than addressing climate change.
Australia has enshrined our commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 into legislation.
We will not meet our commitment to net zero without the resources sector.
The road to net zero runs through the Australian resources industry.
Resources have been hugely important to our past and are even more important for our present and our future.
These are exciting times for the sector because of the enormous opportunities that lie ahead.
To realise these opportunities, we need a strong, responsible and inclusive resources sector equipped to confront and capitalise on global trends.
The resources sector’s contribution to national prosperity is unequalled.
Australia’s resources sector directly employs more than a quarter of a million Australians.
More than a million jobs are supported directly or indirectly by the resources industry.
The industry contributes 14.5% to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product of $2.4 trillion. That 14.5% equates to $354 billion and has been a source of strength to the Australian economy amid global economic headwinds, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the Global Financial Crisis.
The resources industry is the most significant contributor to Australian Government revenue.
Taxes and royalties paid by the resources sector make an essential contribution to the services that Australians rely on.
Australian governments collected $47 billion in taxes and royalties in the 2020-21 financial year.
Like all taxation revenue, it also contributes to community services, emergency services, roads and train lines, the Australian Defence Force, welfare and disaster relief.
Australia’s resources sector reached record export earnings of $422 billion in 2021-22, which is 70% of the value of our exports.
It’s the bedrock of our national prosperity – and it’s seen us through uncertain economic conditions.
In 2023, the resources industry employed over 280,000 Australians across the country.
And up and down and across the country and at its centre, the resources sector is often the beating heart of many regional communities.
But we cannot take this success for granted.
There are big challenges shaping the world, and the future will look very different to the past.
Industry and governments must work together so we have a future-facing resources sector equipped to confront and capitalise on these challenges.
We must continue to work together to achieve the dual objectives of achieving net zero emissions and decarbonisation of our economy while continuing to grow our national prosperity.
What do I mean when I say the road to net zero runs through the resources sector?
It means that our resources and minerals will be essential to build a decarbonised economy.
Minerals like lithium, vanadium, silicon and rare earths are essential in making clean energy technologies, such as batteries, solar panels and electric vehicles.
Our traditional minerals such as iron ore and bauxite– as inputs to steel and aluminium – will also be integral.
Steel in particular will play a key role in all renewables.
Each new megawatt of solar power requires between 35 to 45 tons of steel, and each new megawatt of offshore wind power requires 120 to 180 tonnes of steel.
In turn, making 180 tonnes of steel to produce a new megawatt of offshore wind power needs at least 288 tonnes of iron ore and 139 tonnes of metallurgical coal.
Similarly, gas, will remain crucial for quite some time.
Some fail to acknowledge this, but Australia’s coal and gas resources are essential for energy security, stability and reliability both domestically and across the Asia-Pacific and will be needed for decades.
From Hanoi to Hyderabad, Seoul to Singapore, families rely on Australia’s natural resources to provide the energy security they need.
The war in Ukraine proved that nations see energy security as a high priority.
Moreover, we know that gas is critical to our trading partners’ own net zero pathways.
Australia will support our regional neighbours as a stable and reliable partner in ensuring their energy security and supporting their path to decarbonisation
Our trade and strategic partners have committed to net zero, but will take different pathways to get there.
While some countries will be able to transition to net zero rapidly, others will take longer because of the structure of their economies.
This was reinforced by the Asia Zero Emission Community Joint Statement, signed in Tokyo in March.
Decarbonisation pathways will be tailored to meet the circumstances of each country.
Australian energy exports will safeguard their energy security as they make their transitions.
Gas is a key fuel even as we transform our energy system.
Even as Japan and Korea pursue net zero, they will continue to require gas for decades.
Here in Australia, gas provides the flexibility we need to add more renewables to the grid, and is a vital feedstock and heat source for our industrial base.
Manufacturing accounted for 26% of Australian domestic gas use in 2020–21.
And of this, around 16% was used as feedstock for chemicals, including fertiliser production for the agricultural sector.
Gas is absolutely essential for energy intensive projects such as extraction, concentration and processing of critical minerals and rare earth elements.
These are the minerals that are central to the energy transition.
Very high temperatures are required to turn our copper, aluminium, tin, nickel, cobalt, lithium, gold, silver and rare earths into the wires, batteries, magnets, and semiconductors that power clean energy technologies.
In order to decarbonise, the world needs Australia’s resources industry and our critical minerals.
No gas means no processing of critical minerals and therefore no batteries for the storage of renewable energy, and that makes the world’s pathway to net zero emissions all the more difficult, perhaps impossible.
As the energy transition unfolds, if gas supply declines faster than demand; it results in the uneasy combination of high prices and energy insecurity that we’ve seen around the world since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
High prices and energy insecurity hurt those who can least afford it. I will continue to work with industry to find the best solutions to ensure Australia has secure and reliable access to Australian gas. I have already secured commitments from east coast LNG producers through the Heads of Agreement signed last year to offer substantial volumes of additional gas to the domestic market in 2023.
The Heads of Agreement has improved our domestic gas market conditions in relation to supply.
Moreover, this week the Government will finalise our reforms to the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism to allow for quarterly action in relation to potential gas shortfalls.
Without question, one of the most important contributions the resources sector will make – to climate mitigation, global security, and Australia’s national prosperity and sustainability – will be to unlock our vast potential as a supplier of critical minerals, rare-earth elements and energy transition metals.
Global demand for these commodities is rapidly increasing, driven by decarbonisation and the growth in electronic, communication and military technologies.
With this expected growth, we find ourselves in an enviable position.
Australia boasts some of the richest deposits of critical minerals reserves in the world.
We have the world’s second largest deposits of lithium and cobalt, and the 6th largest for rare earths.
The International Energy Agency projects mineral demand for use in electric vehicles could grow by approximately 3,000% (30 times) between 2020 and 2040.
Of this, lithium demand could grow around 4,000% (40 times,) with graphite and cobalt growing by around 2,000 to 2,500% (25 times.)
We may have a “foot in the door” as a global critical minerals supplier – partially thanks to our geology, but equally as important, thanks to our globally renowned, highly advanced, worlds-best-practice resources industry.
But we are seeing governments around the world – both our partners and competitors - putting plans in place to build their critical minerals capability. The US’ Inflation Reduction Act will drive historic investments in clean energy supply chains, turbocharge its decarbonisation efforts, and transform the operating environment for businesses globally. The EU is preparing its own European Green Deal Industrial Plan, which includes a Critical Raw Materials Act, to drive investment in its clean technology sector.
Countries are building their industries, securing their supply of strategically important minerals, and positioning themselves to capture the economic opportunities that flow.
Similarly, Australia must do everything we can to ensure we grasp this opportunity with both hands.
I will soon release Australia’s new Critical Minerals Strategy.
This updated strategy will help grow our sector and reflect the important role our critical minerals can play in helping Australia and international partners achieve their net zero targets.
Unlocking the full potential of our critical minerals endowments is a core part of realising our ambition to be a clean energy superpower.
Our determination to get the settings right underscores how strongly we believe critical minerals can create economic opportunities across the nation.
Emissions reduction by the sector
The sector will be crucial in enabling the global climate goals, but will also play a role in Australia’s net zero pathway. The resources sector is a major emitter, responsible for around one-fifth of Australia’s emissions. It will need to play its part for Australia to meet its national targets.
Almost 70% of the resources companies covered by the Safeguard Mechanism have committed to net zero, many well before the Commonwealth Government did.
Many Australian resource projects are already at the leading edge globally in deploying renewables, electrification, methane abatement technologies and carbon capture and storage.
While it is up to companies to make the investments needed to take these technologies forward, the government will also play a role.
Through the Safeguard Mechanism reforms, we are providing the resources sector with the certainty it needs to invest in technologies and decarbonise its operations.
And we will play a role through sustained Research and Development effort and collaboration to bring through low emissions technologies.
In my first speech, I noted that “it is important that this country supports the science and research that will be required to care for our land and oceans, to get the most from these resources without desolating the soil, the air and the sea.”
I stand by those words today.
Investing in the sector’s future
Our government has engaged widely with industry, scientists, and representatives from First Nations, community and environment organisations about what the sector needs to be successful in managing, and capitalising on, the global transition.
Last week, I also met with my state and territory ministerial counterparts – the first such meeting since 2020.
The common message is that bold, decisive and focused action will be needed.
This means driving mineral exploration to open up new geological frontiers and develop a pipeline of new mining projects.
The IEA projects that global supply from existing mines and projects under construction can meet only half the world’s projected lithium and cobalt, and 80 per cent of copper demand by 2030. By continued investments in exploration, Australia can help fill that gap.
It means ensuring a workforce with the skills needed for the 21st century.
This will need to be a workforce made of geologists, chemists, metallurgists and engineers, but also community engagement, robotics and automation specialists.
It will be a workforce that understands the role it is playing in meeting the world’s climate goals.
This workforce will be invaluable to the global challenge of arresting dangerous climate change. It means leveraging the expertise of our world-leading scientists, including in national bodies like the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and Geoscience Australia, and our world-leading mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector.
We won’t reach net zero without our resources sector, but equally it will be impossible without this highly skilled workforce of the future.
To capture the opportunities before us, means building our onshore minerals processing capabilities so Australia can secure greater value from our world class resources endowments.
This will be a priority of the government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, of which $1 billion has been earmarked for value adding in resources projects.
It is worth reminding ourselves that Australia is the world’s biggest producer of raw lithium and a significant producer of other battery raw minerals, but has only modest shares of the global markets for processed minerals and high purity battery precursors.
Meeting community expectations
The government supports a resources sector that is economically sound, but also environmentally and socially responsible.
There is no doubt the community has high and changing expectations of the resources sector as we head to 2050.
The sector must meet these expectations if they are to retain the social license to operate in the decades ahead.
As minister, I want to see genuine partnerships between the sector and First Nations people.
Fifty years ago, in 1973, Labor great Gough Whitlam said, “high among my government's ambitions is to give natural rights to our Aboriginal people. We are determined that their interests will be preserved in any mining operations.”
This still rings true today, given more than 60 per cent of national resources projects operate on land covered by a Native Title claim or determination.
This land always was and always will be First Nation’s land, and we should respect and celebrate the fact that we share this land with the oldest continuous culture on Earth.
These places are sacred to our First Nations people and should always be respected.
Our prosperity and jobs are built on the consent of First Nations people to mine their land, and they are still suffering from a wealth and health gap that stays stubbornly open.
Our First Nations people are entitled to expect Australia’s resources sector will invest in local communities and stand up for the things that matter to them.
While the resources industry is the highest employer of Indigenous Australians, as a proportion of their total workforce, they must continue providing Indigenous employment and supporting economic participation for First Nations men and women.
And providing local recruitment, training and education programs, as well as dedicated procurement from Indigenous suppliers.
The resources sector has made significant progress in this regard and I acknowledge that commitment.
Given its relationship and record with First Nations communities, I’ve called for the resources industry to publicly back the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the referendum to be held later this year to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution through the Voice to Parliament.
I am pleased that many of the major resource companies – including BHP, Woodside, Rio Tinto and Wesfarmers – will support the recognition of Indigenous Australians through a Voice to Parliament.
They will be powerful advocates to help progress this crucial national agenda.
This is a once in a generation opportunity to recognise First Nations people in the Constitution in a meaningful way.
The industry has an important role to play on environmental protection.
The sector must operate under a comprehensive regulatory regime which balances development needs with managing environmental and cultural impacts.
The government has committed to work with stakeholders on environmental law reform to ensure our national environmental laws work better for everyone.
Effective environmental legislation strengthens community confidence, resulting in greater trust in regulatory decisions.
Being responsible over the course of the full life of a project is a key part of maintaining the sector’s social license.
Whether it is onshore or offshore resources projects, communities will have faith in the sector if they have confidence that projects will be decommissioned in a safe, environmentally responsible and timely way.
Companies need to actively plan and provision for this throughout the life of their projects.
Offshore oil and gas decommissioning activities, in particular, will increase significantly over coming decades.
The government continues to learn the lessons from the challenges of assuming responsibility for decommissioning the Northern Endeavour while ensuring that taxpayers don’t foot the bill.
I am committed to ensuring the policy and regulatory regime governing decommissioning is robust, and the necessary safeguards are in place.
But I am also very excited about the opportunity for Australia to benefit from the significant investment that will be required.
Decommissioning is a $60b opportunity for Australia.
I want us to capture this investment opportunity to build a competitive, world-class decommissioning and sustainable industry to service demand in Australia and the Asia-Pacific.
It is important we work together, with other stakeholders, to ensure decommissioning in offshore Australia is done well and done right.
Workplace culture and safety
The government has a proud history of supporting workers’ rights through industrial relations reform.
Workplace safety must be part of this conversation.
There have been three tragic deaths on Australian mine sites in 2023 alone. Mr Jody Byrne from Western Australia (51) and Mr Dylan Langridge (33) and Mr Trevor Davis (36) from Queensland.
One death is one too many.
The Australian Government will be working with our state and territory colleagues to identify where governments can improve safety across all Australian workplaces, including resources projects.
But this is ultimately an obligation for the industry – it must make workplace safety its highest priority because every worker should return to their families at the end of their shift.
To succeed in the future, the sector must find a way to attract the next generation of mining workers.
The availability of skilled expertise, as well as the number of young people with a strong ambivalence to the mining sector, is one of the sector’s greatest challenges.
We need to bring them back.
That will require us to tell more and more often the story of Australia’s resources sector – it’s past and it’s future.
Our ongoing prosperity depends on resources. Reaching net zero by 2050 will need all the expertise of the resources sector.
This nation needs geoscientists, geophysicists, chemists, metallurgists and engineers to find and find and produce the minerals and metals the world needs to decarbonise and stop dangerous climate change.
One way to increase skills supply is to employ more women in the sector.
We have an opportunity to redefine what the resources sector means for gender equality.
Until 1986, it’s hard to believe that Western Australian mine owners faced fines of up to $500 if women were caught working underground.
We’ve come a long way since 1986, but women still face discrimination and harassment in these workplaces.
That’s why we’re committed to working with industry to ensure we have safe and inclusive workplaces that not only welcome and encourage women, but value and support them to lead.
Strong trade and strategic partnerships will sustain and open up new economic opportunities, and help build the secure and resilient global supply chains for the technologies Australian people want.
The sector has always been successful at attracting foreign direct investment.
The opening up of iron ore provinces in the Pilbara in the 1960s truly transformed Australia and helped establish vital trade relationships with Asian partners that remain so important today.
The PM and I visited India earlier this month, accompanied by CEOs of major resources companies.
The visit underscored the importance of our Australia-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and our Australia-India Critical Minerals Investment Partnership.
This partnership creates new opportunities to partner with India in solar, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, critical minerals and clean technology manufacturing.
Looking ahead, we are working with key strategic partners to attract investment, share technical knowledge, and accelerate development of resilient, diversified, responsible and sustainable supply chains for the technologies of the 21st century.
As announced by the Prime Minister in November, we are beginning discussions to establish a Critical Minerals Partnership with the EU.
And we are working with the US to ensure we can capture the massive opportunities offered by its Inflation Reduction Act.
We are also deepening our relationships with Japan, Republic of Korea, the UK, and EU member states and investors in traditional resources who are turning their attention to critical minerals and hydrogen.
Mr Speaker, for many years to come Australian resources will continue to support our economy and pay for the services Australians rely on.
This government will ensure that the resources sector provides the nation with a pipeline of secure, well-paying jobs and a buoyant economy for years to come, through the traditional resources sector and the emerging sector that will be essential to decarbonisation around the world.
Success will mean a sector that continues to provide the national wealth and high-paying jobs to support communities and the nation. A sector that has invested in building and sustaining its social license with our communities.
At the same time, it will be one that has been, and continues to be, critical to our shared prosperity and our future.