Interview with Murray Jones, 4CA Cairns

Murray Jones
National Hydrogeological Inventory of Great Artesian Basin, critical minerals strategy.

MURRAY JONES: Well, she’s about to get on a boat, so, look, let’s cross to her right now to find out a little bit more about, well, not just, as I said, the Artesian Basin but the National Hydrogeological Inventory is set to provide improved access to information on both shallow and deep groundwater systems which support regional and remote communities, water supplies, urban water supply and our precious plants and animals. And, of course, there’s quite a few places – I remember going to a property at Longreach, and they certainly rely on water from the Artesian Basin. Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Madeleine King joins me this morning. Good morning, Madeleine. How are you today? 

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Look, I’m really good, Murray. And I’m super excited, I’m having a day on Fitzroy Island today. It’s like tourism is well and back on track in Cairns. I’m on a packed boat ready to get going. So I’m really – 

MURRAY JONES: I tell you what, you’ve got a great day for it, too, because the weather is going to start to ramp up a bit over the next few days. So I think you’ve certainly picked the right day for it. So enjoy it out there. 


MURRAY JONES: And, of course, you’ll be surrounded by water, but just I want to find out a little bit more about this particular inventory that we’re looking to put together, because I know it can get controversial when it comes to surface water and, of course, underground water, but, of course, really good resources if we manage them correctly. 

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Yeah, that’s absolutely right, Murray. And what we know, we do this in the resources sector a lot, you know, we turn to Geoscience Australia to understand what this country is made of, and that’s what’s really important about this survey – to find out where the water is, what we’ve got available, how we best make use of it in a country that can go through, you know, times when there’s a distinct lack of water. So it’s an important survey and one I’m looking forward to working on. 

MURRAY JONES: Now, look, tell me a little bit more about, you know, the extensive nature of this, because obviously the Artesian Basin is enormous. So I should imagine this will be a fairly, I guess, long-term type of survey. It’s likely to take a fair while to get, you know, the information that we do need. 

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Yeah, absolutely. But that’s why it’s important to start this work and get it started quickly. Because we know that the more we know about those resources the better we can understand the future use of them. So you’re right, the Artesian Basin is enormous, but understanding how it ebbs and flows is going to be really important. And we really need to apply that scientific and research overlay to make sure we better understand it. That informs all – many decisions of state and federal governments, particularly federal, of course, in my space. But it also is information we can share with others so that everyone better understands that wonderful natural resource. 

MURRAY JONES: Well, look, you know, the science clearly shows – and this is independent science – when it comes to actually gathering surface water, there are, you know, undoubtedly ecological impacts which are, you know, often not reversible. So I guess having more information about what we can do when it comes to groundwater and using that for often urban supplies, rural and remote supplies and, of course, irrigation as well, it's one of the key things to moving forward. And, of course, keeping Australia not just ecologically healthy but keeping the economy and, of course, that growing economy, the growing of food, healthy as well. 

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Yeah, absolutely. And we know how important our agriculture is, especially in the north, and that groundwater plays a, you know, very important part of that. And that’s – you know, both for local consumption of agriculture but also our export industry. So this research feeds into a whole economy in terms of what everyone wants to eat off the basis of what can be fed from groundwater but also from our export industry perspective. So, you know, it will be a boost to the economy to know what we can do into the future. 

MURRAY JONES: Okay, look, I know you’ve got to get on this boat, but, I just want to quickly talk to you about rare earths as well. 


MURRAY JONES: As the federal Minister for Resources and, of course, for Northern Australia, great opportunities and, of course, strategically very clever for Australia to actually start, you know, I guess using some of our own resources and processing our own resources when it comes to these rare earths. You know, with a changing economy the need for various types of things for batteries, for computer parts, all those type of things, there’s a real opportunity here in Australia. You know, what type of steps are being taken to, one, look after the environment but also increase mining that we actually can actually, I guess, harness this potential with rare earths in this country? 

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Yeah, absolutely, Murray. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Australia to extract more of the minerals we have here. We have some of the highest deposits of lithium in the world but also all important rare earths. And rare earths go into everyday things – our phones, televisions, laptops – but also for defence purposes as well for certain technologies that are important to the defence of the nation. So the government has a critical minerals strategy which includes discussion about rare earths. But we’re also investing through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility in de-risking some of those projects, because there’s a certain market dominance in rare earths from China that we need to be, you know, really aware of. Equally, it’s an opportunity for us to do more things here. And what’s really important for everyone to realise is on the path to net zero by 2050 we all need more mining, more mining of rare earths and critical minerals. And it’s something I say regularly and the world knows it, is the path to net zero around the world runs through Australia’s resources sector, and particularly the critical minerals and rare earths sector. So we – it’s all shoulders to the wheel, to be frank, right around the world, but, you know, I take my hat off to the Queensland government; it’s investing in various projects that can unlock various resources areas of Northern Australia, but equally us in the federal government, we’re working together with states and territories to make sure this can happen. 

MURRAY JONES: Okay. And, look, you know, it’s interesting, objectively, you know, moving forward, is that mining actually is a critical part of moving forward here in Australia and for the reasons that you’ve just outlined as well. More important things to do. Have a fantastic day out at Fitzroy Island. You’re going to just love it out there. You really will. 

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Look, it’s not my first time, and I absolutely adore Cairns and Queensland. It’s one of my favourite places. So I’m really looking forward to have a good old swim out there. 

MURRAY JONES: Rightly so. So a bit different to your home territory there in Brand in Western Australia. 


MURRAY JONES: Minister for Resources federally and Minister for Northern Australia Madeleine King, it’s been great to talk to you this morning. Thank you. Cheers. 

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Thanks, Murray. Appreciate it.