Address to the Australian Minerals Industry Parliamentary dinner

Speech
05 Sep 2022
Parliament House, Canberra
Prime Minister
Check against delivery
Economy and Finance, Environment and Energy

I acknowledge traditional owners of the land on which we meet, I pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.

In that same spirit of respect and reconciliation – I want to acknowledge the public support so many of you here tonight have already given to enshrining an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament, in our Constitution.

A Voice to Parliament is a matter of common courtesy and common sense.

It pays respect to the extraordinary privilege we have to share this ancient continent with the world’s oldest continuous culture.

And it recognises the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a say on the decisions that affect their lives.

Nothing more – but nothing less.

This straightforward act of Australian decency and Australian fairness should be above politics.

A shared national achievement.

And for a referendum to succeed, we will need to recruit and embrace every advocate and ally and supporter, from ‘every point under the southern sky’. 

It’s heartening - and fitting - that leaders from the likes of BHP and Rio have already made such worthwhile contributions to this debate.

Because just as our history didn’t begin in 1788, mining in Australia didn’t begin with the Gold Rush.

First Nations people were digging for ochre in Wilgie Mia in the west - and trading it with people in the east, over 30,000 years ago.

And, alongside the conversation about constitutional change…

…I appreciate your industry is working hard to improve and strengthen your relationships with First Nations landholders, communities and organisations.

Deepening these partnerships is so important - to protect our cultural heritage and to promote economic aspiration, across the country. 

****

Friends, parliamentary colleagues, distinguished guests.

Every Minerals Week is a chance to celebrate a great national success story.

For generations, your industry has driven economic growth, created good jobs, lifted living standards, and fostered innovation and productivity.

Not just in regional and remote Australia, where so much hard work is done – but in our cities too.

My own electorate in the inner west, is home to the headquarters of ABC Refinery which employs over 300 people and exports over $8 billion of precious metal, every year.

This includes the metal for the Melbourne Cup – and the Australian silver used to make the Australian Open trophy that the legendary Ash Barty held up earlier this year.

I love my tennis - and while I’m slowly coming to accept that I may never win the Australian Open - I’m very pleased to know that every champion’s journey begins in Marrickville.

On any measure, Australia is the world’s pre-eminent resources jurisdiction - the top exporter of iron ore, lithium, LNG, and metallurgical coal.

We are a resources superpower.

We can be a renewable energy superpower.

Australian metals and minerals will make this happen.

Here – and around the world – your work will drive the global transition to a low-carbon future.

The Minerals Council has reported on the increase in global demand we’re talking about here – and the increase in production required by 2030:

  • increasing lithium production fourfold
  • doubling rare earth element output
  • a two-thirds increase in nickel
  • a third more copper.

And the growth in demand will drive growth in jobs – and investment too.

Globally, annual clean energy investment will need to more than triple to reach net zero by 2050.

There is a world of opportunity here for our country.

We have an unmatched natural advantage in clean energy.

The sunniest continent on earth, some of the strongest winds in the world – and all the minerals and metals needed to drive the energy transition.

We are also home to the Southern Hemisphere’s best geoscientific research through the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia.

But you know very well – better than perhaps any other industry in Australia – that natural advantages are no guarantee of success.

Natural advantages only get you to the start line.

Winning the race, leading the world, requires investment and innovation and courage and commitment.

And it is a race, no doubt about that.

There’s strong global demand –and there’s fierce global competition. 

Chile, Canada and Saudi Arabia are all chasing the same prize, the same jobs, the same chance to lead an economic change every bit as transformational as the industrial revolution.

The world doesn’t wait - and I know you haven’t been waiting on government:

  • Rio Tinto is investing in wind and solar farms in Queensland to sustainably power its aluminium assets. 
  • BHP’s Nickel West refinery at Kwinana - one of the most sustainable and lowest carbon emission nickel producers in the world – will be supplying processed nickel to Tesla. 
  • Iluka Resources is developing our nation’s first integrated rare earths refinery in Western Australia.
  • H2 Energy is working to decarbonise heavy transport and passenger vehicles by sourcing and supplying green hydrogen to heavy duty fleet customers.

I’m hoping that all of you no longer need to think of this as acting ‘in spite of’ government and instead we can view it as the chance to win the race together.

Both in terms of reducing the emissions footprint of extracting and refining resources...

…and harnessing the rise of renewables and clean energy to grow Australia’s economy, and expand the resources sector.

Our $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund will support new and emerging industries and the transition of existing industries.

It will invest in areas like green steel and aluminium; clean energy component manufacturing; hydrogen electrolysers; and fuel switching.

The NRF will dedicate a $1 billion investment in mining science technology and minerals processing to move Australia further up mineral value chains.

We are the world’s largest exporter of the raw materials necessary for clean energy technologies, but for decades we’ve shipped these materials overseas and bought back manufactured goods at a premium.

Our Government will invest to unlock more value from our minerals.

Because we understand how important your industry is to Australia’s future energy security and our broader economic self-reliance.

You’re not just part of the transition, you’re the foundation for the next generation of growth and jobs and industry that our nation needs to compete and succeed in a globalised world.

For nearly a decade, the Australian political debate over renewables and resources and climate action has been hostage to a false choice between creating jobs or cutting pollution.

Our Powering Australia plan busts that myth.

Embracing renewable energy technology will attract and generate tens of billions of dollars in investment.

And create hundreds of thousands of jobs – with 5 out of every 6 in regional Australia.

I want to emphasise that our Government will continue to work with your businesses to reduce emissions in a predictable and orderly way, underpinning the energy transition with certainty.

In the same way, Australia will continue to be a trusted and stable supplier of energy and resources to our key trading partners.

As we work with other nations to reduce emissions globally, we will continue to be a reliable provider of energy.

For example, Japan and South Korea are already looking to us for their clean energy needs, actively building partnerships with Australian companies for the supply of green hydrogen.

I’m hopeful that across the country, government and industry and researchers and universities can keep co-operating and co-investing…

…to commercialise and apply the innovations and ideas and technology that will drive future prosperity.

*****

Last week’s Jobs and Skills Summit showcased the value of co-operation and collaboration.

It was a powerful reminder of what can be achieved when we work together.

I want to thank the leaders from your industry who came to that gathering in good faith – and made really valuable contributions to the two days of discussions, across a range of issues.

The government is eager to keep the conversation going, working with all employers, so that we can get bargaining that delivers productivity gains – and wage rises.

We do this recognising and respecting the fact that the resources sector has a proud record as a creator of good, secure, well-paid jobs for working people.

The bigger and broader point is that co-operation and dialogue works.

It should not be a 48-hour exception. It should be the rule.

Because working together – respect, consultation, certainty – is how we build a more self-reliant, more secure nation for generations to come.

The resources sector has always been instrumental in shaping Australia’s success.

In an era of new opportunities, your work remains vital to Australia’s future.

‘Building our nation, leading the world’.

Thank you very much.