Speech to the Kwinana Major Projects Conference


Good morning everyone, 

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today, the Whadjuk People, and pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

I extend that acknowledgment to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People here today.

You will of course be aware that very soon 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.

I am proud to belong to a movement campaigning for a Yes vote in this year’s referendum.

And our nation will be lifted up when Australia votes Yes for recognition, listening and a better future for the people who have called our continent home for 65,000 years.

I would urge you all to get behind the Yes campaign. 

And when you go from this place, please encourage your friends, families and work colleagues to support the Yes vote. 

Let’s get this done. 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak at the Kwinana Major Projects Conference here in beautiful Fremantle today.

And what a privilege to speak about Kwinana, which of course sits in my electorate of Brand.

For more than 70 years, Kwinana has been contributing to the development of the state and the nation.

Kwinana’s modern history dates back to the 1890’s and the Swan River Colony.

But its development into the industrial hub and city that we know today exists largely thanks to the quick footwork of former Western Australian State MP David Brand – after whom my electorate is named after - and engineer Sir Russell Dumas.

In the early 1950s Brand and Dumas heard that the Anglo-Iranian Oil company were looking for a site for a regional refinery hub in Australia.

The company, which became known as British Petroleum, had been turned away by State Governments on the east coast and were preparing to head home empty handed. 

Moving fast, Brand and Dumas travelled to Melbourne to meet with the company. 

They struck a deal to build a refinery which would see a shipping channel dredged in Cockburn Sound, and infrastructure and homes built for workers, creating the suburbs of Medina and Calista.

The dredging and the development of deep water bulk facilities in Kwinana opened up the ability to import and export bulk cargo. 

Port facilities including the Kwinana Bulk Terminal, the Kwinana Bulk Jetty and the CBH Kwinana Grain Terminal were built over the following decades and commercial ventures sprung up around the harbour. 

BHP’s Australian Iron & Steel built a steel smelter in 1968 and Western Mining Corp built the Nickel West refinery in 1970. And while the steel smelter closed in 1982, the Nickel industry in Kwinana has steadily grown. 

Today Nickel West supplies Nickel sulphate to the world for the batteries in our phones, that means there’s a little bit of Kwinana in everybody’s pocket.

Think about that next time you make a call or take a selfie.  

Since the 50s, Kwinana has proudly supplied grain, fertiliser, metals, fuels and chemicals to the nation and the world.

My family and I witnessed this contribution first-hand.

My father worked at BP’s Kwinana oil refinery.

In fact, he was one of its earliest employees.

He left post-war Britain and arrived in Fremantle in 1956, finding work at the refinery. He and my mum built our family home in Shoalwater Bay and his shift work at the BP Kwinana Oil Refinery over decades gifted us the greatest childhood.

Indeed all of us were born in the old maternity hospital at Calista which was built to support the remarkable growth of the region in the 60s and 70s. 

Today the Kwinana Industrial Area (KIA) produces a combined annual output of almost $16 billion a year, generates some 30,000 direct and indirect jobs and is home to a hugely diverse range of operations. 

Alcoa’s Kwinana Alumina refinery, for example, is one of Kwinana’s largest operations. Originally commissioned in 1963, the refinery extracts bauxite from its Huntly mine near Marrinup and produces non-metallurgical alumina and smelter-grade alumina.

Earlier this year, I attended the opening of CBH Group’s new fertiliser facility, located next to the Kwinana Grain Terminal.

The CBH Kwinana site was constructed in 1974 and loaded its first vessel in 1977. 

The Kwinana Grain Terminal is today the largest grain export facility in the southern hemisphere, shipping more than half of the State’s total grain production each year. 

WA growers of course produce sought-after noodle varieties which are prized throughout Asia. 

A couple of weeks ago I toured Nutrien Ag Solutions Chemical facility in Kwinana. 

The facility manufactures fertiliser and crop protection products on site for WA farmers to grow our food, and food for the rest of the world.

Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia, a joint venture between Tianqi Lithium and IGO, began their lithium hydroxide operations in Kwinana in 2021.

They produced Western Australia’s first battery-grade lithium hydroxide in May 2022. 

I visited their processing plant last year with my Indian counterpart, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Coal, and Mines, Pralhad Joshi.

Like me, Minister Joshi was impressed by Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia’s operations and the progress they are making to produce the materials needed for lithium-ion batteries.

And in October I welcomed Prime Minster Anthony Albanese and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to tour BHP’s Nickel West Kwinana.

It was the first time a Prime Minister of the world’s third largest economy has been to Kwinana.

The Kwinana Nickel Refinery was the first to produce nickel sulphate in Australia for use in batteries. 

At full capacity, BHP’s sulphate plant will produce enough material to power 700,000 EV batteries annually.

Prime Minister Kishida pledged to make battery supply chains between Japan and Australia stronger as both our counties work together to reduce emissions. 

Shortly before the tour, I signed a new Japan-Australia Critical Minerals Partnership with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Investment (METI).

The Partnership will establish a framework for building secure critical mineral supply chains between Australia and Japan.

All Western Australians, all Australians, should understand how important Kwinana is to the progress of our nation. 

I was pleased to hear that Kwinana Industries Council has hosted visitors from Denmark, Netherlands, Germany and Austria.

Looking to the future, Kwinana will play a key role in our nation’s efforts to reach net zero. 

The Australian Government’s new Critical Minerals Strategy, which I released last month, sets out our vision for how we will support our critical minerals sector as it steps up to the world’s growing demand for raw and processed minerals. 

As one of the strategy’s key focus areas, we recognise the important role industrial hubs like Kwinana play. 

It fills me with optimism to see companies like IGO, Tianqi, Wesfarmers, SQM and BHP investing in Kwinana as their chosen location to turn Western Australian ores into battery grade lithium and nickel. 

It’s also heartening to see IGO partnering with Wyloo to take the next step towards complete EV batteries literally next door.

Recently the Government awarded two critical minerals grants to projects operating in Kwinana; IGO’s Integrated Battery Material Facility and Australian Energy Storage Solution’s Precursor Cathode Active Material Facility. 

BP, KIA’s original tenant, will reinvigorate the site of the old oil refinery into a clean energy hub, which once operating will produce sustainable aviation fuel, hydrogenated vegetable oil and green hydrogen. 

Hydrogen produced by BP will support offshore and domestic supply of hydrogen, including for BP’s renewable fuel production and the processing of metals and minerals. 

These companies recognise Kwinana as perfect location because it offers world-class common user facilities, a highly skilled local workforce, access to affordable energy and easy access to international markets. 

The KIA is also known as world’s best practice of industrial symbiosis, where synergy exchange between products in the area make the companies internationally competitive. 

One company’s waste becomes another’s input.

The co-location of so many different industries has created a collaborative economy, where manufactured products or by products can be exchanged with neighbouring facilities. 

For example, WA’s bumper grain harvest last season could not have been supported without the common user facilities offered at Kwinana, which allowed for the importation of essential nutrients required to grow crops in Western Australia’s soil. 

If the Dampier to Bunbury Gas Pipeline didn’t run through Kwinana, CSBP wouldn’t have proposed its Ammonia Expansion Project. Combined with on-site hydrogen production, this project will support the production of cleaner ammonia. 

Importantly, Kwinana’s location means the people who work there can come home to their families each night.

While other workers drive long distances or fly to remote sites, many workers in Kwinana still live nearby in suburbs close to some of the world’s best beaches.

And just like it did decades ago, Kwinana is continuing to create secure, well-paid jobs for thousands of Australians.

Though founded almost 70 years ago, Kwinana remains the engine room of the Western Australian economy. 

But just as the global economy has evolved, Kwinana has evolved too. 

Starting life with an oil refinery, Kwinana now finds itself at the forefront of the clean energy revolution. 

My family and I were lucky enough to have a front row seat as Kwinana transformed from a quiet town into a modern, thriving industrial hub. 

Kwinana is Western Australia’s gateway to the world economy. 

Thank you for showing the rest of Australia how it can be done.

I hope you enjoy the remainder of the conference.