Media conference in Townsville with Member for Herbert, Phillip Thompson
7 May 2021
Subject: Global resources strategy, northern Australia, jobs, Regional Connectivity Program, Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive, underwriting insurance in the north, resources exports, iron ore
Media conference in Townsville with Member for Herbert, Phillip Thompson
KEITH PITT: Thanks very much. Well, what another terrible day in the North. Great to be here with Phil Thompson, the member for Herbert. It's actually Phil's birthday today. He's had a fair old lead up this week - we've announced significant investments in northern Australia. So, I'm here today in Townsville announcing what is a national and international initiative - $20 million towards the global resources strategy. This is a critical investment in the resources sector in terms of our trade and exports. It is the Commonwealth ensuring that we can continue to diversify those targeted areas for our exports so we can continue to expand with our current exporting and trading partners. And we can continue to ensure that the jobs - the 260,000 plus direct jobs in the resources sector are maintained in coming years and coming decades. So, the Commonwealth has committed to ensure that we can find more markets, stronger markets, larger markets for the resources sector, and the $20 million commitment that we make today will assist us to do that.
Now, given its Phil's birthday, he's had a pretty good lead up - $190 million yesterday committed to the northern- to northern Australia. We want to connect, connect northern Australia to the world. To do that, we are ensuring there is more money available to fix mobile black spots - more money through what's called the RCP, the Regional Connectivity Program, to be able to ensure that data is available. It doesn't matter where you live. It doesn't matter whether you're in Cairns, whether you're in Kununurra, or, you're in Canberra - you should have the same access to digital connectivity as every other Australian. So we are connecting the North.
I've announced a $100 million in tax incentives for what's known as the JMEI - that they're very supportive of, clearly - Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive. That will ensure that our junior, junior explorers are out there finding that next resource, that next big boom, that next mine, and we maintain that pipeline of projects right across the country.
And the biggest announcement, in my view, about - everybody's coming to Townsville. And of course, one of the biggest announcements in my view is the $10 billion we have put on the table in terms of underwriting insurance in the North. The insure- the reinsurance pool - $10 billion to help drive down insurance costs, helps every single person that lives in Northern Australia. Doesn't matter whether its small business, whether it's a residential house, whether it's strata titled, this is a significant commitment right across northern Australia to address what has been a very challenging problem. People like, Phil Thompson, the Member for Herbert, Susie McDonald, Warren Entsch, George Christensen - they have taken the fight up on this, and it is our Government which is delivering on these commitments for Northern Australia. Questions?
QUESTION: What is the strategy?
KEITH PITT: So, the Global Resources Strategy is about ensuring that we can continue to expand, particularly into Southeast Asia. So, we know that the forecasts for consumption in Southeast Asia, particularly for things like coal, will continue to get bigger right out to 2030. So, we want to make sure that Australia is at the front of the queue in terms of delivering Australia's products into those markets. Because when you look at trade, more trade for Australia means more jobs for Australians. In regional areas, one in four jobs - one in four jobs, rely on trade and our export markets, and over 50 per cent of our trade comes from the resources and energy sector. So, the strategy is about ensuring that we're doing everything we can to open up those trade markets and we'll have more to say on the detail post budget, but this is a significant announcement for the country.
QUESTION: What sort of things will the $20 million been spent on?
KEITH PITT: Well, we are looking at those options right across the world. We already have a very strong portfolio of trade commissioners, for example, in other areas. We know that we're out there through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in country. But, trade is about relationships, it's about building and strengthening those existing ones and looking for new ones. We know we've got challenges with some of our trading partners right now, in fact, our biggest trading partner has been challenging on - in a couple of fields. We know, for example, the coal sector has found other markets for its product - it's managed to maintain its productivity; it's managed to maintain its profitability; it's managed to not only keep its existing workforce, but expand it over the last few months, - that's what we want to see. As the Resources Minister, I want to ensure we're investing in those areas that will provide further opportunities for trade exports. And we'll have more detail in the next few weeks.
QUESTION: How exactly will this benefit businesses in Townsville?
KEITH PITT: Well behind me, you can see the Townsville port, or part of it. This is one of our big export ports in Australia. They are taking products, for example, from Mount Isa - whether that is copper or zinc or something else. There are some coal exports from here as well. But, every single piece that comes out has to have a market to go to. So, the strategy is about ensuring that those markets are maintained, strengthened and expanded. And that means that locally, that we maintain, strengthen and expand jobs for Australians in the resources sector.
QUESTION: And obviously, with the whole tensions between China and Australia at the moment, I guess, how important is it to diversify our exports?
KEITH PITT: Well the Commonwealth, in terms of the Coalition Government since 2013, has ensured that we've tied up more free trade agreements, more bilaterals, more multilaterals than ever before. In fact, we've got more than 70 percent of Australia's exports covered by one of these types of agreements right around the world. That has held Australia in good stead, in difficult conditions. And to see just how successful the sector has been; in a worldwide pandemic, when there were countries whose economies almost completely shut down, Australia's resources and energy exports are expected to reach a new record in terms of exports this financial year. So, in year with a worldwide pandemic our people, our companies, our resources have contributed to the Australian economy more than ever before. In fact, I'm advised today that iron ore price is gone through $200 USD - that is a record price for Australian products. We want to make sure we maintain that momentum because it means jobs for all Australians.
QUESTION: What was it expected to be at that price? So, I know it's going to get a lot higher than it was.
KEITH PITT: Well, it is significantly higher. We had a world - Australian record exports in the last of this year of just over $100 billion for iron ore. During the pandemic, the forecast for all energy and resources exports was around $246 billion - so, down significantly. But in the last six months that has recovered, expanded and done even better. I mean, this is great news for Australia.
QUESTION: Yeah, and how significant is our export industry during the pandemic?
KEITH PITT: Well once again, the resources sector is more than 50 per cent of all exports. Resources and energy account for more than half of our trading products. It is an enormous part; it is the backbone of our economy; it's the backbone of a lot of employment - there's more than a million jobs; indirect, direct and indirect, right across the country associated with the resources sector. We want to see that increase. I know the coal sector now has more people employed than it's had since 2012. We've got over 260,000 Australians directly employed. The iron ore sector is literally booming, and we've got more opportunities around critical minerals and gold, and we're looking to make sure we kick a goal in every single one of them.
QUESTION: And I guess, yeah, in terms of- I know you said more details are to come on this strategy, but, can you talk us through any more of the details?
KEITH PITT: Well, as I've said, we'll have more to say in the near future. This is a budget top line announcement. But it's here, we're making it in the North because the North is critical to those exports. It is jobs in areas like Phil Thompson's, here in Townsville, that rely on that trade. And the Coalition is committed to ensuring those jobs are maintained. All good?