Interview with Kieran Gilbert

Kieran Gilbert
Critical Minerals Production Incentive, Resourcing Australia's Prosperity program, Future Gas Strategy.

KIERAN GILBERT: Let's return now to one of our earlier stories on the Coalition's climate policy and this stoush with the Federal Government. I'm joined live by the Resources Minister, Madeleine King. She joins us from Perth. Before we get to the climate issue, I guess it's a related matter, the critical minerals focus. You've been talking about that today in a speech in Perth and you've said that you can't look at resources as if it's homogenous. Critical minerals aren't like something you export in bulk. Can you explain what that means, what your thinking is on that for our viewers?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Yes, of course, Kieran. Well, the thing is, we know that the backbone of Australia's economy is on our large bulk commodity exports. That includes coal and iron ore and LNG. And if you take iron ore, for instance, from the Pilbara, that's massive volume. You know, we have trains the length of like a couple of kilometres that are taking tonnes upon tonnes of iron ore through Port Hedland and other ports out to export partners. But for critical minerals and rare earths, it's a really, it's a smaller volume prospect. So, its needs are higher to develop those mines, but also then the capacity to process those minerals here into oxides and other parts of the critical minerals value chain that goes into batteries, into wind turbines. So, it's a really different industry and it's also a new industry. We've been talking about it for some time. But this government is absolutely committed to making sure it happens and that we make a Future Made in Australia on the basis of the critical minerals and other natural resources that this country is so lucky to be the custodian of.

KIERAN GILBERT: So, why, explain then, why are the Production Tax subsidies needed as opposed to what Angus Taylor and the Coalition are arguing for? And that is getting the fundamentals right, removing the red and green tape and easing and speeding up approval processes.

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Well, the Production Tax Incentives are about crowding in investment. There will be no production incentives paid without success that's already been established. But you need to be able to send a message to capital investors, whether they are local investors or people from overseas or companies or governments from overseas, that Australia is committed to a critical minerals and rare earth industry. And it dovetails really importantly into the massive subsidies that the United States Government is producing through President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act. So, this is a big challenge. It's a national mission to build a critical minerals and rare earths industry. This government is committed to making it happen. The Production Tax Credit is just a down payment on us taking up our global responsibility to lead in critical minerals and I'm not going to let this chance pass us by. Peter Dutton and Angus Taylor can say all they want. All I know is if they don't back this, they're anti-resources and more importantly and worse even, they're anti-Western Australian.

KIERAN GILBERT: Well, the Liberal leader and the Nationals leader at the state level, they're backing your policy, are they not? If they, if the Coalition is to stick by this approach, what sort of electoral impact does that have?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Well, you're right. Shane Love, the leader of the Nationals and leader of the Opposition here in WA, and WA Liberal leader Libby Mettam both back the Critical Minerals Production Incentive. And that's because they know how important it is for Western Australia and to get this industry off the ground. And so, they're probably just as staggered as I am that Peter Dutton and Angus Taylor are choosing to ignore the needs of the resources sector. What does that mean for the Liberals electorally? Well, it probably means they'll have no hope of making any gains in Western Australia. And Western Australians shouldn't trust them with anything they say about the resources sector because they just don't understand it. They just don't get it.

KIERAN GILBERT: Something that you've talked about for a while, including in opposition. I know this is a generational investment through Geoscience Australia is the mapping of the land, basically to say, well, these are where the minerals are. You spoke about how we're blessed to have the minerals and resources, but we don't know where everything is right now. So, this is a, a significant plan forward. How, how much scope is there for growth in this space?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Yeah, well, the Resourcing Australia's Prosperity program is really exciting, and I'm really excited about it and very proud of it. It's $3.4 billion over 35 years to map more of our country, to understand where those critical minerals and other resources are that we will need to get to Net Zero, is a really exciting prospect. Added to the 17 billion in Critical Minerals Production Tax Credits, this makes the 2024 budget the biggest ever budget for the resources sector in this country. But to the work that Geoscience Australia are going to do, they have said that the country is 80 per cent under explored. So, there's a lot of hard rock we're trying to get through to understand where more of these resources are. So, you know, unless we know what we're made of, we don't know what we can make. And this is about Geoscience Australia working in the long term because science takes a long time. This will be pre-competitive data. So, public science that tells explorers and investors where to look further, because it's a big country and it's a big job and I'm absolutely committed to it and I can really nerd out on this for as long as you want, Kieran, because the work of Geoscience Australia is so vitally important to this country.

KIERAN GILBERT: Love a bit of nerding out on NewsDay, and no better source to do it than with the Resources Minister. But I want to ask you, if you can change your focus. It's still related, obviously, the targets by 2030 and beyond, but with the Coalition approach, they're taking, they want to take the foot off the accelerator a little. They're staying committed to Paris. Won't a lot of industry welcome that as saying, ok, that takes a bit of the pressure off?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Well, I don't think we can take our foot off the pedal of trying to reach Net Zero emissions by 2050 and that includes reaching those important interim targets. It's been a bit of a flip flop position from the Liberals on this. You know, we don't like Paris. We do like Paris. You know, Ted O'Brien, the Shadow Minister, to clean up from some of the Nationals that say all manner of things, and because we know they don't actually believe that we need to take action on climate change. So, I think what is the best thing to do is for the Australian people to forget the confusion of the Liberals, their climate change denialism, their partners in crime, the National Party, and to support the Albanese Labor Government that is committed to action on climate change. We've legislated those targets. We are going to achieve those targets and we're going to achieve them while making sure there is a smooth and orderly energy transition. We've outlined this in any number of policies to make sure it happens for the benefit of our nation and works with other nations as well.

KIERAN GILBERT: And you've said there's a future for gas. It's a crucial transition fuel. It's a part of your government strategy. I just want to get your thoughts on Lily D'Ambrosio. She was asked by my, my colleague in Melbourne, Simon Love, about this, “Is it time for a reset with Madeleine King?”. He's talking about the differences over gas. And Lily D'Ambrosio says, "look, no, you know, I'll always deal with the Commonwealth in a way that makes sense for Victoria, but we know Victorians support our ambitious targets". How do you get Victoria to see the reality of the need to have gas as a transition fuel?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Well, I agree with the Victorian Government. I agree with their ambitions to go to renewables and given that Victoria has such a high reliance today on power used by brown coal, their challenge is quite large. So, I support what Minister D'Ambrosio is doing, and they have said that they support gas as a transition fuel. And just last week, of course, Minister D'Ambrosio approved an offshore project. But more's the point I think sometimes the media like to blow up this into an argument. It simply doesn't exist between me and Minister D'Ambrosio. But really importantly, the Future Gas Strategy is not about, you know, more new gas. It's about making sure people understand that gas has to fit into our transition because there's different needs for it across the different states and territories. So what Victoria needs is going to be different to what the Northern Territory needs, to what Queensland and to what, of course, me or us in Western Australia might need for our industry. So, that's what the Future Gas Strategy is about. It’s about ensuring there's a greater understanding of where gas fits within the overall ambition to reach Net Zero emissions by 2050.

KIERAN GILBERT: Resources Minister Madeleine King joining us live from Perth. Appreciate it.

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Thanks, Kieran. Appreciate it.