Speech to politics and policy breakfast, Perth
Hello all and thank you for the opportunity to speak this morning.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on here in Perth, the Whadjuk Noongar people, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.
I extend that respect to all First Nations peoples here today.
The resources sector operates in many regional and remote regions of Australia, often in hand in hand with First Nations communities.
More than 60 per cent of national resources projects operate on land covered by a Native Title claim or determination.
Western Australia is rich in First Nations history and culture.
There are as many as 89,000 First Nations people in Western Australia. Of these more than 12,000 are living in remote communities across the state.
It is essential that the resources sector works closely with First Nations peoples.
By treating First Nations’ communities with respect and ensuring they gain maximum benefit from resources projects, the sector will in turn be supported by them.
There is already a solid foundation to build on. More than a quarter of a million people work in the resources sector and First Nations people make up a greater share of this workforce than any other sector.
This is statistic to be very proud of.
Ongoing and genuine partnerships with First Nations Australians is essential to the future sustainability of a strong and responsible resources sector.
And just on that theme I should acknowledge the agreement signed between Rio Tinto and the PKKP Aboriginal Corporation to create the Juukan Gorge Legacy Foundation, which is a significant step.
As you know, the Australian Government has made a commitment to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full.
A referendum will be held later this year to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution through a Voice to Parliament.
I know a number of resources companies have indicated their support for the Voice. BHP, Rio Tinto, Woodside and Wesfarmers have all acknowledged this is a once in a generation opportunity to recognise First Nations people in the Constitution in a meaningful way and I thank them for their support.
The Voice will ensure First Nations views are included during the development of the federal laws, policies and programs that impact their lives.
It recognises them as valued partners on matters relating to their interests.
In this way, enshrining recognition of Indigenous Australians through the establishment of a Voice gives strength and status to the principles of respect and partnership.
The past history of relations between the resources industry and traditional owners has not been a happy one.
In what feels like distant history but is actually recent memory, there has been significant and unwelcome conflict between the industry and Aboriginal people.
Thankfully practices have improved and it is safe to say the resources industry are now leaders in the engagement, employment and empowerment of Aboriginal people.
By showing support for the recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution, the resources industry can significantly further efforts for reconciliation.
The Government is committed to respecting and protecting the rights of First Nations Australians and their communities.
At the same time, we are determined to ensure the right conditions are in place to support continued development of the resources sector.
We’ve seen how important the sector is to national prosperity and to communities across our country.
But it is not widely understood how important the resources sector will be in our shared net zero future.
The importance of critical minerals
For the world to achieve the global Paris goals, low emissions technologies will need to be adopted across all sectors of national economies.
And a great deal of the clean energy transition over the coming decades will ride on the back of critical minerals.
These minerals are essential to things such as storage batteries, electric vehicle motors, solar panels, and wind turbines.
They are driving radical change in the technologies that power our homes, offices, factories, vehicles, and communication devices.
They are essential inputs for a range of advanced manufacturing, aerospace, and defence applications.
Demand for these technologies is projected to skyrocket over the next three decades.
This means more demand for lithium, cobalt, graphite, and rare earth elements, among others.
So while the global transition to net zero is a great challenge, it is also an enormous opportunity for Australia and Western Australia – for our resources sector and the workforce it supports.
Our nation produces about half the world’s lithium, is the third-largest producer of cobalt and the fourth-largest producer of rare earths.
It is nothing short of a national mission to ensure that our critical minerals are effectively and sustainably utilised.
Doing so will help us achieve net zero at home, while making a substantial global contribution to reducing emissions.
And on this point we should remember the role gas currently plays in processing critical minerals and rare earths.
Governments and industry need to work together to bring forward a new wave of investment to advance our critical minerals sector.
The latest Resources and Energy Major Projects report highlights the impact of increasing demand for new energy metals and minerals.
Australia’s critical minerals major project pipeline increased to 81 projects from 71 in 2021, with an estimated value of $30 to $42 billion.
And more than half of these projects are located here in Western Australia.
This includes, 11 lithium, three high-purity alumina and nine nickel/cobalt projects.
There are also 33 projects covering other commodities – including graphite, rare earths and vanadium oxide.
Together these projects have a combined value of more than $22 billion.
Australia's critical minerals will also play an important role in the security of our international partners in our shared, net zero future.
This will be done by establishing new sources of supply and diversifying supply chains in concentrated markets.
We have to work with like-minded economies to invest in our critical minerals development and address supply chain challenges.
And to that end, it was amazing to see the Prime Minister tour BHP Nickel West Kwinana in October last year with the Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
The Kwinana Nickel Refinery is the first to produce nickel sulfate in Australia, a material for batteries. Customers include leading battery makers in Japan.
Prime Minister Kishida said he wanted the battery supply chain between Japan and Australia to become stronger and for the two countries to work together towards carbon neutrality.
Also in October last year, 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.
Australia also has critical minerals agreements with India, the Republic of Korea and ongoing engagement with the United Kingdom, the European Union and many others. I will be travelling to India with the Prime Minister next month.
Added to this is the Australia-US Net Zero Technology Acceleration Partnership.
Through these agreements we aim to link Australian critical minerals supply with international demand.
The Government also wants to help create the capability for Australian projects to be involved in more of the downstream processing stages.
This is consistent with our plan to build manufacturing capability across industry sectors. We want the nation to reap the benefits of providing more value to what we produce.
And the market is moving to capture these opportunities.
This is especially evident in the lithium sector, with three lithium hydroxide processing plants currently in operation, construction or advanced planning in Western Australia
In the rare earths sector, we are also moving to capture more of the value-added processing stages.
Australia is currently only involved in mining and beneficiation stages of the lengthy and complex rare earths supply chain.
But projects like Lynas’ Kalgoorlie Project and Hastings’ Yangibana Project are working to capture the next stage of cracking and leaching onshore.
Lynas Rare Earths’ new facility in Kalgoorlie will process concentrate from its Mt Weld mine and will help cement its status as one of the largest integrated rare earths facilities in the world.
This will provide and important alternate to its plant in Malaysia which is likely to stop cracking and leaching.
Iluka Resources Eneabba Rare Earths Refinery Project underway north of Perth will help us to move further downstream to the production of rare earth oxides.
This project has received approval for a $1.25 billion loan through the Australian Government’s Critical Minerals Facility. Once operational it will be Australia’s first fully integrated rare earth oxide refinery.
The Government is making substantial investments to develop Australia’s critical minerals sector and value-added capacity.
In the October Budget we ensured $100 million was available over three years for competitive grants to support early and mid-stage projects through the Critical Minerals Development Program.
We are also investing $50.5 million over four years for an Australian critical minerals research and development hub to help unlock our nation’s critical minerals potential.
To help ensure we have the right policy settings in place, the Government is also developing a new Critical Minerals Strategy.
The strategy will reflect national objectives to accelerate the development of the sector and position Australia as a clean energy superpower.
Aims include creating economic opportunities, including for regional Australia and First Nations Peoples; developing new sovereign capabilities and industries; and building reliable, competitive and diverse supply chains.
We are aware of the magnitude of the challenge ahead to extract and refine these valuable minerals.
But we will work closely with the sector to make sure that we are successful in this vital national mission.
Intervention in the east coast energy market
Finally, much has been said about the Government’s intervention in the east coast energy market.
We acted because we could not allow the high and volatile gas prices across the economy caused by a number of factors but in particular the illegal invasion by Russia of Ukraine to continue to put unsustainable pressure on Australian households and industry.
While here in the West we are largely shielded from the worst of global energy shocks thanks to the wisdom of the Carpenter Labor Government establishing a domestic gas reservation policy, and the good management of the McGowan Labor Government and stewardship of my friend State Energy Minister Bill Johnston - on the East coast we were on track to see electricity costs increase by a further 36 per cent over 2023–2024, and gas prices increase by up to 20 per cent.
Clearly these increases were unsustainable. I might also say that the social licence for gas companies was – and still is –very much at stake here.
Faced with these rising cost of living pressures the Government made a decision to protect Australian households and businesses from the high energy prices we have seen in global energy markets.
Working with the states and territories our intervention has shown its worth.
Our Energy Price Relief Plan, introduced in December last year, is already having a positive impact on wholesale energy prices. And we expect the plan to take some of the sting out of higher retail energy prices.
The Government greatly values our world class gas industry, created by the investment and hard work of the resources sector.
It was with this in mind that the temporary measures were taken to introduce a price a cap of $12 per gigajoule for wholesale gas was set. I emphasise they are temporary.
These targeted, temporary actions are necessary to shield Australian families and businesses from the worst impacts of energy price rises driven by the war in Ukraine and embargoes on Russian gas.
Through the Energy Price Relief Plan we have sought to strike a balance between maintaining the industry’s ability to gain a return on their substantial investments over many years with affordability and supporting the needs of Australian consumers.
I know this is all a little academic to those in the room. These measures don’t apply here for two reasons:
- WA is not connected to the National Energy Market
- You don’t need such measures because prices are under control.
That is due to Government policy of the Domestic Gas Reservation Policy and the fact that public utilities remain in public hands.
Both of these State Government policies have had many critics but now they show their value for Western Australia.
The Government will continue efforts strike a balance in resources and energy policy to ensure our industries remain strong and we seize the opportunities of the net zero transition.
And I would urge you all to think deeply about the upcoming referendum on Constitutional recognition through a Voice to Parliament.
The referendum will be a unifying moment for Australia and I very much urge you all to consider how you might help.