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Queensland Resources Media Club Address

Brisbane

18 May 2020

Introduction

Thank you to the Queensland Resources Council for hosting this event. 

I would love to be there in person, rather than have to speak to you via video.

But under the circumstances, it’s still great to have this opportunity.

As a proud Queenslander, it’s a privilege to be the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia.

Those of you who attended the QRC Annual Luncheon will recall the Prime Minister speaking about the importance of the resources sector to Queenslanders—and indeed all Australians.

This is now the case more than ever. From my perspective, it boils down to three things:

  1. The resilience of the sector in facing challenges
  2. The sector’s role as the engine room of our economy, and
  3. The diverse, fulfilling and well paid jobs that the resources sector offers to so many Australians especially in regional Australia.

Resilient to challenges

Australia has a world class resources sector.

It is the backbone of our economy and the lifeblood of many of our regional communities.

Exactly a year ago today, the people living in those communities emphatically endorsed our Government’s plan to continue building our economy around a strong resources sector and creating more jobs in the process.

Who could’ve predicted then where we would be now.

12 months on, we are now facing a very different world as the devastating COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe.

And while our Government is firmly focused on protecting the health and safety of all Australians our eye is also on economic recovery - and your sector will play a key role in that.

It is heartening to see examples where local communities have been affected by hardship, and resources companies have responded—supporting employees, local business and communities doing it tough.

I want to acknowledge the proactive efforts by your industry to protect workers and help regional communities in fighting the coronavirus.

We’ve seen the sector going above and beyond to minimise the risk of coronavirus.

Rosters and shift lengths have been changed, social distancing measures are strictly enforced, we’re seeing temperatures checks and workers packing up and moving to avoid cross-border travel.

We’ve even seen medical centres established in regional communities by resources companies to support local health networks.

On behalf of the Government, I thank you and all your workers for what you’ve done to keep the industry going through this challenging period – the sector has been magnificent in its response.

Consistent with this, the Government and I are working hard to support the sector.

We have committed hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to support geological data, R&D, and new opportunities like critical minerals as well as expanding our trade relationships through free trade agreements.

We have also asked the Productivity Commission to study regulation of the sector—so that governments can ensure we do not burden industry unnecessarily.

The current coronavirus pandemic has redefined hardship for many—both here and around the world.

As I mentioned before, it’s a very different world we’re in now to the one when we were returned to government last May.

We’ve taken the appropriate action to get us through this crisis and keep Australians in work and businesses in business by injecting $320 billion into the economy.

This includes:

  • $130 billion JobKeeper supporting business retain jobs
  • $17.6 billion for the Government’s first economic stimulus package
  • $90 billion from the RBA and $15 billion from the Government to deliver easier access to finance, and
  • $66.1 billion in economic support package.

We have been working very closely with states, territories and industry to anticipate, understand and mitigate impacts so that—as much as possible—operations can continue as normal.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the Minerals Council of Australia, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association , the network of other supporting peak bodies like the Queensland Resources Council and ultimately each of you for your tireless efforts, patience and commitment to cooperation during the COVID crisis.

So far Australia’s health trajectory is much more positive than many other countries, and this is a credit to the diligence of businesses and everyday Australians.

The resources sector saw Australia safely through the Global Financial Crisis.

While there will be undoubtedly more obstacles to navigate coming out of this pandemic, the resilience and strength of mining and resources sectors will help us through these and future challenges.

Engine of the economy

The sector is, in many ways, the V8 engine of Queensland’s and our national economy.

In Queensland, the sector contributed $22.7 billion in purchases and paid over $6.1 billion in wages in 2018-19.

Nationally, resources and energy export earnings reached a record of $281 billion last year (FY2018-19).

The value of resources exports and the sector’s share of our GDP has doubled over the past decade.

While it is still premature to assess the impacts of this pandemic, one thing that’s certain is that the sector continues to underpin Australia’s terms of trade, and will always be a powerhouse in our economy.

It is reassuring to see major resources projects are going ahead.

Adani is on track for production in 2021, while Arrow Energy has made its Final Investment Decision to proceed with its $10 billion Surat Gas Project that will create up to 800 construction jobs and 200 permanent operations jobs.

Right here in Queensland we are also seeing highly prospective projects moving towards delivering new critical mineral supply for Australia and the world.

Australian Mines Limited’s SCONI Cobalt-Nickel-Scandium project has a world-class asset with potential to contribute battery minerals for the growing Electric Vehicle market.

Multicom Resources’ St Elmo vanadium-project was granted Major Project Status by the Australian Government late last year, recognising the significance of this project in regional Queensland and its potential to contribute to Australia’s critical mineral supply.

The Capricorn Copper Project north of Mount Isa is an example of an already operating producer, which is exploring options to move into cobalt production.

And Alumtek Minerals is working with the Queensland alumina industry to explore innovative ways to extract critical minerals from bauxite tailings.

This shows the strength, diversity and the resilience of our resources sector and the opportunities for the future.

Our National Resources Statement, the first in 20 years, provides clear goals and vision for the sector over the next decade or so.

My ambition is for the sector to build on its reputation as one of the world’s most advanced, innovative and successful; one that delivers sustained prosperity and development for all Australians including in many communities where other sectors cannot or do not operate.

Jobs for Australians

As I said in my opening, Australians must be at the heart of what we do.

Creating and retaining jobs is crucial in the current economic context.

Direct employment from resources reached almost 250,000 jobs last year, many of them in regional areas.

In Queensland, one in every seven jobs is resources related—and these jobs pay among the highest wages in Australia.

Nationwide, the job count increases by more than 1 million (300 thousand in Queensland) when you consider all the related industries that indirectly benefit from the resources sector—port workers, truck drivers, and local businesses for example.

We have recently seen Toowoomba-based Wagners secure a $35 million quarrying contract, and Rockhampton-based Martinus Rail win $320 million worth of rail contracts.

I want our kids—particularly those in regional towns—to be able to acquire the skills they need to work on these projects and secure good, well-paid jobs in their local area.

This is why our Government is investing $30 million in a new School of Mines and Manufacturing at Central Queensland University to boost local skills and jobs, and attract global research opportunities to Gladstone and Rockhampton.

Looking ahead

Looking ahead - we need to capitalise on opportunities, which means:

  • unlocking more resources, and
  • Developing new industries.

Unlocking more resources

Resources development provides multi‑generational employment, and wealth to the nation and our regional communities.

A pipeline of resources projects today will mean new mines for tomorrow, and that will mean more jobs and growth.

The Australian Government will continue to support new resources development and open up new basins.

In Queensland, local communities and businesses are already benefiting from such development in the Galilee Basin.

Opening up new basins, getting more data on our resources and improving our understanding of Australia’s geology is key to seeing new mines and new oil and gas projects open up across Australia.

This data and information are the building blocks of new resources exploration, be it offshore or onshore which provides for a pipeline of new projects for a strong and sustainable resources sector, leading Australia’s bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

After tough economic times, the sector has historically focused on brownfield opportunities––but let’s not lose sight of the exciting greenfield opportunities that exist in Australia.

Despite the recent, short-term global oil and gas prices volatility, developing more gas resources remains a priority—one that underpins economic, energy supply, and emissions reduction goals.

There is considerable potential for more gas to be discovered and developed right here in Queensland. The North Bowen Basin is connected through to Townsville but the resource potential of the Basin is yet to be fully understood. If there are the commercial gas resources that some claim, the Basin will need to be connected into the east coast market for it to reach its full potential.

It’s a similar story in the Galilee Basin with work going on to ascertain its true commercial potential for gas alongside its undoubted coal resources.

Going further west, companies are also getting excited about the potential for shale gas resources in the Georgina and South Nicholson Basins.

The Government has already invested $8.4 million to help unlock the world class potential of the Beetaloo Basin in the NT, bringing with it the development of more gas and potentially oil, supporting the local economy and bringing with it employment and business opportunities in the north.

The Beetaloo Basin may contain more gas then is off the North West Shelf. If commercial it will create thousands of jobs and business opportunities and really build Darwin into a true downstream petroleum hub along with its strong LNG export projects.

Developing new industries

Australia is now the world’s largest exporter of LNG–and we should remain so.

Queensland has played a significant role in this achievement.

Like the success story in building up our LNG industry, Australia also recently became the world’s largest producer of lithium.

Australia’s first lithium processing plant commenced production last year with industry investments promised for additional plants in the coming years.

It is this sort of success that we want to replicate for other emerging opportunities—both mineral development and moving into production chains.

The new uses of these minerals—in smart phones, high-tech magnets, space and defence tech to name a few—are so important to our future that we call them critical minerals.

They are also critical to the future of Australian resources.

Critical minerals underpin much of Australia’s advanced manufacturing sector, for example in advanced medical technologies.

COVID-19 has only reinforced the vital importance of these strategic minerals to global supply chains.

The Government launched the Critical Minerals Facilitation Office earlier this year so that Australia can better seize the opportunities that the development of a critical minerals sector will bring to Australia.

We are making great early strides in achieving this goal, which includes a new level of engagement with our key trading partners to capitalise on Australia’s critical minerals potential.

I am pleased that my state and territory counterparts are as equally committed to the sector’s development.

Just last month, the COAG Energy Council agreed a National Critical Minerals Development Roadmap, which will help bring new projects online and support the development of critical minerals precincts and hubs across our country.

The Government is also implementing the National Hydrogen Strategy.

Our ambition is to grow this industry and become one of the top three exporters of hydrogen to Asian markets.

We are building Australia’s expertise, whether in carbon capture and storage, renewable energy or battery minerals.

I recently had amendments to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (OPGGS) Act approved by the Senate to pave the way for the CarbonNet project.

That project will provide Carbon Capture and Storage for the development of the low emissions Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain Project based on brown coal resources in the Latrobe Valley.

Australia is leading the charge on technology development that will be in high demand around the world.

As we move into new commodities, technologies and industries, we improve the resilience and diversity of global supply chains, boost our domestic economy, and create a range of new jobs.

New technology, abundant resources and the potential for reliable and affordable energy are all part of my vision for the rejuvenation of regional towns and cities, the creation of new manufacturing jobs and the decentralisation of our economy.

It’s the National Party that is supporting working people in regional Australia. Regardless of whether they are farmers or miners, or anyone else.

The COVID crisis – along with hardship is showing us important lessons about what a new economy might look like. A strong resources sector should go hand in hand with strong and decentralised manufacturing and downstream processing sectors.

There are real opportunities here – and we will have more to say on this issue as we commence our recovery.

Conclusion

While the world battles with the current pandemic, resources remains well placed to continue to compete internationally and maintain our national wealth.

Queensland has a proven track record of weathering challenges. We improvise, we adapt, we overcome. I am confident that, together with the resources sector, we will continue to show our resilience and meet these challenges.

I have outlined the Government’s plan for Australia’s resources. It’s about capitalising on our strengths, unlocking more resources, and building up new industries.

This is the pathway – not just too economic growth for the sector and the nation – but to new jobs for thousands of Australians; particularly regional Australians.
 
With that I would like to congratulate the sector here in Queensland for its achievements, the role it has played in overcoming adversity this year and its contribution to Australia’s economy and our future.

Thank you.

ENDS