Speech to NT Resources Week conference

Delivered virtually

Thank you to the NT Resources Week organisers for this invitation to speak.

I am sorry that I can’t be there in person, but I am looking forward to visiting the Territory soon and meeting with many of you.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are all meeting.

I am speaking to you from Noongar Whudjuk country and would like to acknowledge the Larrakia people whose lands you gather on today. I pay my respects to Elders, past, present and emerging. I extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the audience today.

An ongoing partnership with First Nations peoples is essential for the resource sector’s sustainability. More than 60 per cent of national resources projects operate on land covered by a Native Title claim or determination.

The resources sector operates in many regional and remote regions of Australia and is often in close proximity with First Nations communities.

The Government has committed to an ambitious First Nations policy agenda. Implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full, and reforming Commonwealth cultural heritage protection legislation, is part of this.

We will work to ensure that the right conditions are in place to support the continued development of a resources sector that protects the rights of First Nations Australians.

At a national level, the mining industry, as a proportion of its workforce, employs First Nations Australians at a higher rate than any other industry. I acknowledge the close partnerships that exist between the resources sector and First Nations Australians.

It is a privilege to have responsibility for both the resources and Northern Australia portfolios. In many ways, they’re intertwined.

I am a proud Western Australian and I am cognisant of what the resources sector means for my home state.

The Northern Territory understands the value of the sector, too. It’s so crucial to your economy, the nation’s economy and to the livelihoods of literally hundreds of thousands of Australians.

According to the latest June trade data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, total resources and energy exports were worth a record $414 billion in the 2021-22 financial year, up 38 per cent on the previous 12 months.

The sector contributed $43 billion worth of company tax and royalties to governments across Australia in that same financial year.

There are no signs of the sector slowing down either.

Demand for resources is projected to grow over coming decades. This is being driven by growing populations; economic development in emerging economies; and the transition to cleaner energy sources.

We are also recognised as one of the most attractive destinations for mining and resources investment in the world, standing us in good stead for the future.

Transition to net zero

Of course, the global transition to net zero is changing the resources and energy landscape.

There will no doubt be challenges for the sector along the way, but there’s also immense opportunity.

Since becoming Minister I’ve been quick to emphasise the enormous role resources will play in Australia’s transition to net zero.

As I have said repeatedly, without Australia’s resources sector, the world doesn’t achieve net zero and this Government is one hundred percent behind the sector that will lead us to a decarbonised global economy.

I will work closely with resources workers, and communities that support it, to identify opportunities and partner with the sector to drive emissions down predictably and sensibly.

The Government will support industry, including the resources sector, to decarbonise, by establishing the Powering the Regions Fund, to keep Australian industry competitive in a changing global economy, and ensure our regions thrive.

Critical minerals, as we all know, are essential inputs to many clean energy technologies and will be crucial to enabling countries to move towards net zero.

Electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines and hydrogen electrolysers – all key to the global journey to net zero by 2050 – are produced using critical minerals like lithium, cobalt, rare-earths, platinum and silicon.

In fact, the International Energy Agency has predicted the world will continue to see a steep increase in demand for critical minerals – I’m talking about in the order of 40 times more lithium and at least 20 times more cobalt and graphite.

The great news for us is that Australia is a key global producer of these minerals.

This presents an unmissable opportunity. The Government is committed to opening up new opportunities in the critical minerals sector to drive regional economic growth.

We are working with state and territory governments to unlock opportunities in the critical minerals sector, including in downstream processing and manufacturing.

This will create high paying jobs, secure supply chains and help us on the way to a decarbonised future.

The NT government is leading the way on its thoughtful and ambitious plans to develop the Middle Arm precinct to enable the Territory to take advantage of these opportunities.

I look forward to working with your Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, Mining and Industry Minister Nicole Manison, and Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics Minister Eva Lawler to progress this project that will diversify the NT economy and build a sustainable future for all territorians.

Carbon capture

n terms of meeting the net zero challenge, I continue to emphasise that the resources industries are part of the solution.

Our gas industry is a good example. Gas enables greater use of renewables domestically by providing energy security. Australian LNG is also a force for regional energy security and helps our trading partners meet their own decarbonisation goals.

We can do more to manage emissions associated with gas and other industries. I applaud the efforts taken by sector to ship carbon-neutral LNG, reduce its emissions and driving the deployment of Carbon Capture Use and Storage.

I applaud the NT Government and industry for working together to facilitate a Darwin CCUS Hub. This will help to unlock the new developments of Barossa and the Beetaloo. I’ll talk about both of these in more detail in a moment.

The Australian Government is coming to the table with the award of new permits to explore for CCS opportunities in Australia’s offshore.

These are new opportunities, including in the NT offshore area, which can help to make the Darwin Hub a reality.

I am delighted to announce that I have awarded two new offshore greenhouse gas assessment permits from the 2021 Offshore Greenhouse Gas Storage Acreage Release.

The permits have been awarded to:

  • A joint venture between INPEX, Woodside Energy and Total Energies for an area in the Bonaparte Basin, and
  • Woodside Energy for an area in the Browse Basin.

Both areas provide a significant opportunity for industries to decarbonise, as well as providing new opportunities to support job creation and economic development in Northern Australia.

This is the first greenhouse gas storage acreage release since 2014. Awarding new permits will see a surge in industry effort around CCS.

I want to see the industry convert its ambition for CCS into reality. I want the industry to convert its talk about CCS into action.

Everyone in the audience today understands how important this is for the social licence of the sector.

But more than that. Getting CCS right is important for the entire globe to reach net zero emissions.

But don’t just take my word for it. The International Energy Agency has been very clear in its assessment that CCS is critical in the global effort to decarbonise and arrest serious climate change.

I am hoping to be able to announce the award of further permits in the near future, which will effectively conclude the 2021 release.

Petroleum acreage release

And I am also pleased to announce the release of 10 new areas in the offshore for bidding as part of the 2022 Offshore Petroleum Acreage Release.

The 10 areas I am releasing today include a location offshore of the Northern Territory. There are also six areas off Western Australia, one area off Victoria, and two areas in the territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands.

The annual release of acreage for exploration is an important part of making Australia an attractive place to invest.

The location of the 2022 release areas will see continued investment to support major projects in northern Australia.

I know these greenhouse gas storage acreage releases will enable industry to make Australia – and the NT – a world leader in CCS and the global challenge to meet net zero emissions.

Beetaloo Sub-Basin and Middle Arm development

The considerable gas resources of the Beetaloo Sub-basin can deliver reliable gas to Australian businesses and households, and to our regional partners – this is a great opportunity.

I commend the NT Government on the landmark Pepper Review, The Independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing of Onshore Unconventional Reservoirs in the Northern Territory.

Responsibly, the NT government took a step back, and took the time to undertake a thorough review of the science, engaged extensively with First Nations peoples; and has agreed to implement in full the 135 recommendations of the Pepper Review.

That work is well underway, and I am confident that the NT government will ensure any development of the Beetaloo Basin is conducted safely and in a way that is sensitive to the environment and protects First Nations cultural heritage.

It is estimated that the development of the Beetaloo will generate thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity over the coming decades.

But those thousands of jobs and billions in activity will be endangered if development ignores the need to ensure that First Nations heritage is protected, and environmental concerns are addressed.

As I mentioned earlier, I am looking forward to continuing to work closely with the NT Government and with industry to make the Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct a reality.

Middle Arm is an extraordinarily exciting project within my Northern Australia portfolio, and will be crucial to creating a more resilient supply chain at home while building trade ties with Asia.

Together, the Beetaloo and Middle Arm projects will generate considerable economic benefits for Territorians.

Environmental protection

I am committed to ensuring the future sustainability of Australia’s resources sector.

I want to make sure our national regulations work better for environmental outcomes, while also providing greater certainty for industry.

The sector already operates under a comprehensive regulatory regime to balance development needs with the management of safety and environmental impacts.

But I’m fully aware that improvements are needed.

The Government is committed to reforming the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. We know that the Act currently doesn’t work for the environment, and it doesn’t work for industry either.

Australians don’t trust that the Act is delivering for the environment, for business or for the community. We want to fix that.

This Government will provide a full response to the Samuel Review of the EPBC Act.

We will commit to ongoing consultation on law reform.

We will stand-up an Environment Protection Agency to ensure compliance with environmental laws, improve processes for project proponents and centralise data collection and analysis.

Respect in the workplace

My last final point, and it’s arguably my most important, is that I would also like to see a resource sector that leads the way when it comes to respect in the workplace.

As the first woman to hold the position of Australia’s Minister for Resources, I take the matter of sexual harassment, sexual assault and bullying of women in the resources industry extremely seriously.

There are no excuses. It must end.

It boils down to the fact that every worker has the right to be safe and treated with respect in the workplace.

I was appalled and dismayed by the findings of the WA Parliamentary inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the FIFO Mining industry.

This behaviour is abhorrent, unacceptable and should not be part of any modern workplace.

The Government is working with the resources industry to stamp out sexual harassment.

The Respect@Work Report by the Australian Human Rights Commission was released in March 2020 and made 55 recommendations focused on preventing and addressing sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

We will implement all recommendations of the Respect@Work report.

I note the Minerals Council of Australia published its Respect@Work Toolkit in December 2021, which provides fact sheets, guidance, and templates to support action to eliminate sexual harassment in member companies.

I urge all employers to take all available steps to improve workplace conditions for women.

Conclusion

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak today.

I have covered a range of topics in quick time, but the ultimate message I want to leave you all with is one of optimism.

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

There is also no doubt the transition to a lower emissions economy, and the ensuing changes to our energy mix over the coming decades, will challenge the sector.

But it’s also going to provide immense opportunity.

Like I said earlier, on the road to achieving our ambitious net zero targets, we see the resources sector as part of the solution – not as part of the problem.

And let’s not lose sight of the fact that the sector will keep the lights on, and the heaters and - especially important in the Top End - air conditioners - going.

This government is 100 per cent behind you.

I look forward to working with all stakeholders across the NT and Australia to ensure that resources prosper, providing the Territory and the nation with a pipeline of secure, well-paying jobs and a buoyant economy for years to come.

Thank you.