Opening remarks - Critical Minerals and Industry Roundtable, Washington

Critical Minerals, Australia's relationship with the US

MADELEINE KING, MINISTER FOR RESOURCES: Thank you, everyone. I thank the Ambassador for that welcome, and to welcome Ambassador Kennedy. To, of course, our Prime Minister here in our wonderful new Embassy. And also, Secretary Raimondo and Amos Hochstein, the Adviser to the President.

I want to start by doing what we do in Australia, it is customary to acknowledge the traditional owners of land on which we're meeting today, which is the Piscataway and an Anacostan peoples. And I pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging.

And welcome to all that are here, industry from America and also from Australia. I know you've travelled far. And we really are grateful for you being here in Washington today. We have an urgent task ahead of us to develop the critical minerals and rare earth elements of Australia so that we can contribute to the net zero emissions goals of both the United States and also our country, but also our region in which Australia is in, the Indo-Pacific. These are very important goals. And Australia has, with its natural geology, an extraordinary opportunity to make the most of that for the benefit of our economies, but mostly for our citizens and our workers in that great new adventure of developing the critical minerals and rare earths industry of our country for the benefit of all. With that, I will hand over to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you to everyone for joining us today, particularly the Secretary, Gina Raimondo. And Amos as well, thank you very much. And thank you to all the industry leaders from Australia and the United States who are joining with us here today. And I want to thank our Ambassador, Kevin Rudd, for hosting us here today. And of course, a welcome to the extraordinary Caroline Kennedy, who has done such an amazing job, I say to our American friends, since she arrived in Australia. One of the first things that Caroline did was to head up to a Garma Festival, which is not an easy thing to do to get off a plane and find yourself in Northeast Arnhem Land in Australia, where Ambassador Kennedy danced with the locals, and very much joined in the spirit of what is a cultural, the major Indigenous cultural festival that's held in Australia.

In Japan in May, Australia and the United States made history when we signed the Compact on Critical Minerals and Clean Energy between myself and President Biden. This week, we're working to turn words on a page into commercial realities. Yesterday was the inaugural meeting of the Australia US Taskforce on Critical Minerals that arose from that Compact. Its responsibility is to expand reliable, responsible and secure global access to critical minerals. In our quest to build a better future, what makes it possible to reach so high is indeed what lies beneath our feet. It is those critical minerals that are the building blocks of the clean energy economy, which will be one of the great transformation points of the 21st century. And transformation in the global economy that is as significant as the Industrial Revolution was. And the difference being, I think too, is that it's moving even faster than the Industrial Revolution did.

The success of this Compact is not just a matter of setting a goal. We need to make sure that industry have a seat at the table and a say in the process from the outset. And that is one of the things that today is about.

We want industry on board with the objective and engaged in the work of achieving it here and in Australia. For Australia's end, our goal is very clear. We want to build end-to-end sustainable, reliable and transparent critical mineral supply chains with the United States. We recognise that the demand for critical minerals is dramatically reshaping the global economy. And we understand that this represents a transformative opportunity for Australia and the US to meet our own net zero commitments. And in Australia, we have a commitment of 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 to help fast-growing nations, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, from our perspective to industrialise and decarbonise at the same time is critical. And to create a new wave of manufacturing jobs in both of our nations.

I spoke in the meeting that I just had with the Secretary that one of the themes of my Government's election was a future made in Australia. One of the lessons from the pandemic is that we are vulnerable if we don't enable ourselves to have more resilience. And what that means is making more things in Australia. We found when exports and trade became more difficult, we found we didn't even have enough PPE equipment in Australia, for example. We need to learn those lessons and ensure, particularly as allies, that there's a link between economic resilience and cooperation and our national security objectives as well in today's uncertain world. And we need to make sure that we work on that.

We are partners in so many fields. And this morning, I spoke about the third pillar of our alliance. The first pillar has been in the post-World War Two period, since one of my predecessors as a Labor Prime Minister, John Curtin, turned to America in our darkest hour. Since then, we've been important allies in defence. Our economic relationship continues to be important to our free trade agreement. The US is Australia's largest two-way investment partner in the world. And that's important. But the third pillar now is very much on clean energy and climate change. Something we are really conscious of moving forward as well. As partners, we bring different qualities and different ingredients to the table. But this is an area where I can say confidently that Australia's uniquely positioned to do some heavy lifting. We have the supply. We are the world's largest supplier of lithium, the fourth largest of cobalt, and the third largest of rare earths. We have shovel-ready projects that are ripe for investment, And we welcome US investment in Australia. We are also a stable democracy with a skilled workforce and strong environmental, social and governance credentials. And I say this as well about Australian investment here, I say with the President of the ACTU here, one of the labour movements' greatest achievements is Industry Super. And we have $3 trillion plus in super. That invests, not just domestically, but invests here in America as well. That provides an opportunity for that two-way engagement going forward through that. Our industry has deep expertise extracting minerals and a proven track record as a reliable producer and exporter of energy and resources. And we're an ambitious country. We are keen to step up and to strengthen our role in supply chain by doing more value adding as well.

To achieve these goals, we need to better insights regarding the barriers and missing links in the current US and Australian critical minerals supply chains. And that's where your perspective is so important. And I look forward to the outcome of today's discussions.

In Australia, our Government is working to implement our Critical Minerals Strategy, led by the Minister but also involving our Industry Minister, our Employment Minister, our Skills and Training, to look at a whole-of-government approach to this area. This includes targeted support to de-risk strategically important critical minerals projects by investment vehicles that we have like the Critical Minerals Facility. This provides financing to strategic critical minerals projects to support the energy transition.

And today, I've announced a doubling of that from $2 billion to $4 billion. The $2 billion was already pretty much allocated. But that's supplemented, as well, by other funds that we have available, our National reconstruction Fund and others as well, looking at not just new industry and investment, looking at mitigating risk, looking at how we value-add, looking at the skills area as well. When you combine all of that, we have approaching $6 billion available to support industry going forward. This is all very important. And we see that the relationship with the US is the most important. We want to work, as well, with your Inflation Reduction Act, to ensure that Australia benefits from what is occurring. Because we think this is, I was asked in a press conference earlier today about, you know, 'Will that see a vacuum of capital to the US?'. We want to make sure, and I think the US, If I can be so bold, agrees that we can have win-win here in terms of how we go forward.

And that is part of what today is about. That's the context for the discussion that will take place is how the Inflation Reduction Act here combined with the measures that we've put in place can see increased investment in both of our nations, which strengthen the capacity. This is a case of one plus one does not equal two. Australia and the United States, when combined, is a powerful force. A powerful force in a global economy, but also, importantly, a powerful force in achieving and promoting the values that we have, which are a transition but a transition, as well, to a clean energy economy that's inclusive, that benefits workers, benefits consumers, that benefits the people who we seek to represent. And that's where the values of the Biden Administration are completely in sync with the values that my Government has as well going forward. And that's why this is such an exciting time and why I'm so pleased to be participating today.

GINA RAIMONDO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Good morning. It's a pleasure to be here. And thank you to all of the corporate leaders who are with us, especially those of you who have travelled so far to be here. Special thank you and welcome to the Prime Minister. We are just delighted to have you and host you this week. And I'm not sure I could add anything to that. I should simply say I agree and move on. But it was very well said. And we agree fully that there is a win-win situation here for our countries, for our mutual national security and for the corporate sector of both of our countries. I also want to welcome and thank Madeleine King, Minister, for your incredible leadership on this topic. And I look forward to working with you. Ambassador Rudd is a force of nature, I would say. And I feel lucky to be able to work with that force. And another force of nature is Amos, who is leading this team in the White House and an indispensable partner to me and our team at the Department of Commerce.

So, I think with the team we have here around this table, and the commitment from the top of the Australian Government and the US Government, this is really a moment. This is really a moment to make good on everything the Prime Minister just went through as it relates to the economic and national security opportunity before us around critical minerals. I would say, and the Prime Minister just touched upon this, the last few years have really been a massive global wake-up call to all of us around the vulnerabilities of our supply chains. First with COVID, which overnight, massively disrupted our supply chains. Then, of course, the conflict in Ukraine, more disruption. And of course, what we see from non-market actors like China. We have allowed, Prime Minister and I were just talking, we've allowed ourselves to become vulnerable by being overly dependent on one or two countries or companies around the world. And as a result, extremely vulnerable to the harm that comes from these supply chain disruptions.

And now, as we race towards a clean energy future, as we race towards a more stable supply chain, there's a moment for us, US and Australia, to partner as it relates to critical minerals to our mutual benefit. And I agree with you, Prime Minister, it's a transformational opportunity. The work that Amos is doing in the White House around the clean energy transition, in order to make that happen and achieve the President's goals, we have to strengthen the US-Australia relationship as it relates to critical minerals.

I also want to put a fine point on China. I think it's important to call this out, as we did earlier. China has a head-start. And that means we have to work a little harder and a little faster. They have the technology and sustained investment over a long period of time, particularly in midstream processing and refining to dominate the market for critical minerals. And we all know, if China were to point that new direction unfavourable to us, it can cause a great deal of pain, very quickly. And so, we have a job to make sure that doesn't happen by drawing closer to one another and becoming less vulnerable. I'd say most troublingly, they've shown a willingness to employ export restrictions on critical minerals as a retaliatory measure. We've seen what's happening with germanium and gallium and most recently, graphite. So what I would say is, it's on us to work more closely as allies and as between government and private sector in the extraction, refining, processing in the whole chain.

And I love what the Prime Minister said. Australia is democratic, has an excellent workforce, is a great place to do business. Same with the US. We want your investment in the United States. And we want our investment in Australia.

So, I would say it's true, we have experienced the pain that comes with the vulnerability and the disruption of supply chain. Let's use this to turn it into a transformational opportunity. The moment now with the Inflation Reduction Act, with great leadership, with the CHIPS Act, to really strengthen the partnership and bilateral commercial relationship between Australia and the US and our private sectors. And that's why I think we're all just so excited to have this discussion today. As you said, get beyond the talk and figure out what deals are we going to do, when, how, employing people and shoring up the supply chain. So, I'm absolutely thrilled to be here. And thank you, again, for being with us.