Speech to the Pilbara 2023 Conference

Delivered virtually

Good morning all and welcome to day two of the Pilbara 2023 Conference.

I begin today by acknowledging that this event is being held on the land of the Ngarluma people, the Traditional Custodians, and pay my respects to their Elders past and present. 

I extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including those of you in the audience 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.

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

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. 

The people of the Pilbara know more than most of the challenges faced by remote indigenous communities. 

Listening to what those communities want and need to improve outcomes will be a step forward for the Pilbara. 

Thank you for the chance to be involved in such a major event, albeit remotely. 

I would love to be there with you in person in Karratha, and in fact was I was in Karratha just a few weeks ago with the Prime Minister touring Dampier Port. 

Clean energy, emissions reductions and the road to net zero are at the heart of the Pilbara 2023 program.

It’s an exciting time to be in Western Australia, as we look to decarbonise our economy and to assist the economies of the Indo-Pacific to decarbonise their economies as well.

WA and the Pilbara can be the engine room of this regional transformation. 

Decarbonisation of the Pilbara itself is, of course, critical to the achievement of WA’s emissions targets.

The Pilbara region is a globally significant resources region. 

It represents around 19 per cent of WA’s Gross State Product, three-point-four per cent of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product and 33 per cent of national exports.

But it also accounts for significant emissions. 

It is estimated that industry in WA accounts for 35 per cent of National Safeguard Facility emissions – and the WA Government estimates the Pilbara region alone accounts for about 23 per cent of WA’s emissions.

It’s also fair to say that deployment of renewable energy in the Pilbara is less advanced in comparison with other Australian energy networks.

Less than two per cent of electricity is generated from renewables in this region.

But this is changing. 

A new agreement between the Federal Government and the Western Australian Government under the Rewiring the Nation program will provide up to $3 billion to expand and modernise electricity grids in the South-West and the North-West networks in Western Australia.

This agreement will help industry in the Pilbara to lower emissions and in turn will help Australia meet its emissions reduction targets.

This investment is expected to support around 1800 construction jobs and unlock future projects across WA.

The building and upgrading of the grid in this region complements the focus by government and industry across the Pilbara on emissions reductions and the path to net zero.

With demand growing for clean energy sources we are investing in common user infrastructure which will help regions in the north take advantage of these opportunities.

For instance, we committed $565 million in grant funding to support common user port upgrades at Port Lumsden and Dampier in the Pilbara.

This will help the Pilbara capitalise on the forecast growth in demand for minerals key to the battery and electric vehicle markets, and in green hydrogen.

Other investments include $95 million to support 10,000 New Energy Apprenticeships for metal fitters and machinists, structural steel and welding, electricians and motor mechanics. 

All these skills will be needed in the effort to decarbonise. 

While we strive toward increasing zero emissions energy sources, we know that the global demand for WA’s critical minerals is driving increased demand for gas to process them.

The gas industry must seek to reduce its emissions and the Government is assisting through the granting of carbon, capture and storage acreage and by developing a reputable carbon credits system that the community can have confidence in. 

Resource companies in the region are leading by example too, adopting ambitious emissions targets. 

In fact, most mining companies adopted a Net Zero target well before the Australian Government did.

And the rest of the sector across the Pilbara is making efforts to decarbonise their operations by exploring opportunities to install renewable energy such as solar and wind on their sites.

The work being done now will go a long way to ensuring that the region that powers the nation's economy can be powered by renewable energy.

I thank everyone – stakeholders, industry and government – for their efforts so far, and commitment to the work long term as we move to an energy transition future.

And thank you again for your time this morning.

Please enjoy the rest of the conference.