Interview with Nadia Mitsopoulos, ABC Radio Perth

Nadia Mitsopoulos
Impact of the Federal Budget 2024-25 on Western Australia, Future Made in Australia Strategy.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Now, I just want to go back to the budget for a moment and what WA’s Resource Industry gets out of it and it seems like it may well be a fair bit. There are generous tax breaks, hydrogen producers and critical minerals refiners. And this is all part of a new $22.7 billion Future Made in Australia strategy. And it's all about unlocking private investments. So, I want to get more with Madeleine King, who is the Federal Resources Minister. Thanks for your time. Good morning.

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Pleasure to be here, Nadia, good morning to you and your listeners.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Just explain the Future Made in Australia Strategy. What will it do?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Well, it is, from the resources point of view, the most significant investment in the resources sector of any Commonwealth Government, showing solid support for the building and development of the new critical minerals and rare earths industry that is right across the country, but particularly important in Western Australia. And it puts resources at the heart of Australia's Future Made Here Policy, and it is so vitally important. So, resources are the bedrock of- they're the ingredients that go into all the things we need for a green energy future, both here in Australia, but also amongst our trading partners. So, the Production Tax Credit will drive investment in critical minerals processing. It's a really significant $17.6 billion program over 14 years that will drive more jobs here, more industry here, more advanced processing and manufacturing in Australia, but in particular in Western Australia, which is, you know, don't tell my friends and colleagues elsewhere, but we know it's the heart and soul of the resources sector of this country.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: So, regarding those tax incentives, then, who benefits?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Well, those that are engaged in critical minerals processing. So, what we know is a lot of junior miners and junior companies are the ones that are doing the hard yards on critical minerals and rare earths. Obviously, there's some big companies involved, but as Industry will tell you, most of those that are involved in critical minerals are really on that junior side of the mining industry that have, have really struggled sometimes to get the finance. So, these Production Tax Credits just push those projects over into really positive territory so that they can drive more jobs and more processing here in Western Australia.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: So, what are some of the ones that we don't hear enough about that are on your list? Vanadium, for instance, I'm told we've got plenty of that in WA.

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Yeah, absolutely. And in Queensland. So, Australian vanadium, who's a battery manufacturer, they're just getting going. They launched their first vanadium battery. Australian technology and Australian workforce building grid size supporting batteries. Chalice Mining, that has the platinum group elements, they also stand to be a part of this as they move to a processing position as well. And there's others, QEM, Chemix, Arafura, rare earths in the Northern Territory. So, these are all junior miners that are pushing towards extraction. But more, even more importantly, is that processing. So, we do more things here. We get the value added here, right in WA, which means better jobs, more jobs, and a better and higher technical capacity that is really homegrown and designed to help the whole population.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: You're also providing tax incentives for green hydrogen. A lot has been said about green hydrogen, but these projects seem to be difficult to get off the ground.

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Yeah. Hydrogen is an emerging technology, really, really important part of the puzzle to reach net zero. And, you know, we've got to kind of do all things at once to get to net zero emissions by 2050. And investing in the future of hydrogen is really important and part of the work, and another thing for the resources industry in this budget is a significant investment for Geoscience Australia and the resourcing Australia's prosperity that will map things like where naturally occurring hydrogen is, or places to store hydrogen. And then when you have the capacity, through the tax initiatives you mentioned, then there's a potential for green metals and green steel, like right here in WA, where we have the solar power to work on the electrolyte capacity to make hydrogen, to go into steel manufacturing. It's really exciting, but it's these production tax credits that drive that investment and drive the development into our future.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Madeleine King is my guest. She's the Federal Resources Minister. But the problem here, Minister, is that those incentives won't come into effect for another three years. And when I look at, you know, industries like nickel, for instance, they could probably do without help right now. Isn't it the case, if you want to capitalise on the renewable energy boom, you need to be doing it right now, not in three years’ time.

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Yeah, well, we're a considered government, Nadia, so we will take the time to make sure we develop this program properly. It does need to be legislated. You can't just change the tax situation in this country overnight. And we wouldn't want to. We need to make sure the programming and the processing, the development of this tax initiative is done right. And we're going to do that. I know that might be difficult for nickel right now, but there are a lot of companies mining right now that aren't processing yet, and this will drive investment into the processing side of things, and that's what we want to happen. You can't flick a switch on this stuff overnight as much as we might want to. We are sending a signal right now to investment and investors from right around the world to make sure they know Australia and in particular Western Australia is the perfect place to invest if they want to invest in critical minerals and rare earths and a green energy future.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: And when we talk about a green energy future, why aren't you putting more money into getting households off gas? Wouldn't that be good for a green energy future?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Look, and there are parts of the budget that are supporting electrification of households. But the thing is, and particularly in Western Australia, most of the use of gas is in industrial applications. Western Australia has made a really important move to move away from coal fired generation by 2029, ahead of the rest of the country in decarbonising out of coal. So, gas will play a part in household power generation, but more importantly, it will play a role in processing of critical minerals, which we know those critical minerals and rare earths are vital to the net zero journey as well.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Okay. And if we just talk about batteries, interestingly, we were talking earlier about the budget and the fact that, you know, people are getting another energy credit, as you know, we're already getting one here from the state government. But people get angry when they hear about this because there's no money in the budget to help people buy household batteries or no incentives or rewards for people who are producing their own power through renewables. Is that something you need to consider in the future?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Well, I mean, and I think those other measures that you mentioned, the cost of living measures are really important actually to the community. And though, you know, some people, of course it's great that they invest in batteries and more solar on their roof, but there's a lot of people in WA and around the country that don't have that extra money to spend on that. And though we might, of course we want to support that, we also need to make sure we have the funding available to support the seven extra Medicare Urgent Care clinics that the Federal Government is investing in Western Australia. The $300 energy rebate is really super important. And if households want to use that $300 rebate to save, to go into electrifying their households, then look, they should absolutely do that if they wish, but we're not going to force them to do. And I think there are a lot of other cost saving measures in the budget and different households will use those cost saving measures differently, as well they should. And importantly, you know, we all make our own choices on that and there are provisions in this budget and budgets passed about incentivising electrification, and individuals will, of course, make their choices on that.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: All right, I'll leave it there and appreciate your time. Thank you, Minister.

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: My pleasure. Thanks, Nadia, see you soon.

NADIA MITSOPOULOS: You, too. Madeleine King there, she's the Federal Resources Minister.