Daily Telegraph Bush Summit

29 Oct 2021
Prime Minister

Prime Minister: G’day, everyone. It’s great to be with you again. Wherever you are joining us, I acknowledge our traditional owners. 60,000 years of contending, reckoning and understanding the wonders and challenges of this continent. I pay respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

I also acknowledge the service men and women of our country, and the veterans who have served - so many of whom are drawn from our rural and regional communities.

The soul and character of our country is drawn from rural and regional Australia.

More than our identity, it is a critical part of our economy and our day to day lives.

We’ve seen this during the pandemic.

You kept the food on the tables.

You kept the supply lines open.

And you kept the resources coming out of the ground, the exports on ships - and you kept the country going.

You had the country’s back.

And I want you to know that my government has yours.

We had your back during the drought.

We’ve had your back as you’ve faced the fires and floods and calamities of recent years.

And we’ll have your back as the world transitions to the new energy economy.  

So it’s great that we have this Summit again.

I want to thank Ben English and everyone at the Tele for getting us all together again for another year.

I know the Deputy Prime Minister will also be speaking and he will outline the Government’s investment in water and infrastructure to support regional Australia, so I’ll leave that to him.

A lot has changed since the last Summit in Cooma.

And how good it is that there’s been some rain!

Murray-Darling Basin storages are at 89 per cent and this is driving record production.

Areas across the country that were struggling with drought have then had to deal with floods, especially in NSW and Queensland.

Nature is a force, certainly, to be reckoned with but we’ve shown that this Government is always here to help you get back up, to clean up, to get up and doing what you do best. 

The value of farm production is forecast to reach a record $73 billion this year. We’re well on the way to supporting the industry to reach its goal of $100 billion by 2030.

COVID might have stopped us from gathering this time, but I tell you what, that won’t be the case for much longer!

And I want to thank regional Australia - not only for getting the jab and playing your part in the extraordinary national effort on vaccines, but for your work during the pandemic more broadly.

You’ve adapted, you’ve got on with the job.

You know, all of us have learned many things during this pandemic.

Again and again, I’ve heard people say one thing - it is, “we worked out what’s most important.”

In our personal priorities, in our families, and our communities.

And we’ve seen that in the economy as well.

What’s important? Jobs.

Being competitive.

Keeping costs down.

Being able to adapt to the changes that are going around us.

All around us, the world is changing.

As you know, I am on the way to Glasgow where I’ll share Australia’s pathway to a low-emissions future.

I want to speak about that today.

To explain our pathway to net zero emissions by 2050, and what it means for you, for your jobs, for your communities.

Our plan is to deliver on our target of net zero by 2050.

It’s a serious plan.

It’s not something that we’ve doing lightly.

And we’re not starting from a zero base.

Because as a nation we have already achieved a 20% reduction in our emissions, mostly due to the heavy lifting done by our agricultural sector. 

That contribution hasn’t gone unnoticed, I assure you, or unrecognised and I want to thank you for the hard yards already taken. 

I also want to thank the National Farmers’ Federation and peak industries bodies like Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Pork Limited for their leadership in supporting a reduction in the carbon footprint of the sector.

We are backing you all the way, including through significant investment in research and development.

I want to assure you that our plan for net zero doesn’t force our farmers to do anything more that what you’re already doing and will choose to do in the future.

And we won’t be asking the states and territories to use their powers, under our plan for 2050, to regulate the way you use your land.

We trust you as being the best stewards of your land.

Our Government wants Australian farmers to be able to choose how they use their land to get the highest and best outcomes. 

Our plan for net zero supports farmers to take advantage of new markets, including carbon markets. 

And we’ve got a detailed plan, based on the best economic modelling and analysis, done by the Government’s departments, the Department of Industry, Energy and Resources, that sets out how, not just the why or when.

How we do the right thing by jobs, in particular how we grow regional jobs.

How we do the right thing by the environment. 

How we develop and deploy new technologies.

How we strengthen our rural and regional communities through the global transition to a new energy economy.

To me - and I know for you - the how really matters.

I want you to know, so you can be certain our plan won’t put jobs or industries at risk.

It won’t reduce the competitiveness of our exports, including our agricultural exports.

It is about ensuring that we’re not leaving people behind, but we’re going forward strongly together.

What our plan does is deal with both the costs and the benefits.

It puts regional communities at the heart of the opportunities that are real and that are there.

Our plan - the Australian Way - will continue to reduce emissions while keeping our economy growing, ensuring reliable energy and ensuring our regions, importantly, remain strong.

In the plan, you’ll see our approach takes a technology-driven focus.

Technology, not taxes.

Building on work we are already doing.

Work that will see the Australian agriculture sector grow to $100 billion by 2030.

With up to 100,000 new jobs by 2050 in hydrogen, renewable energy, green iron and alumina, and critical minerals.

And the majority of those jobs will be in regional Australia.

Under our plan the Government will not close one mine, one factory or one power plant or change the way farmers manage their land.

Not one thing in our plan that we have set out does any of those things.

But we all know, there will be regional communities that face more challenging transitions because of where the world is heading.

We are not blind to that, and we know you’re not either.

The world is changing, and we need to respond and adapt, and put ourselves in the strongest possible position to be successful, just as you’re seeking to do.

But those transitions, they’ll unfold gradually and predictably.

We’re not forcing them, giving us ample opportunity to make the long-term investments necessary to achieve a smooth shift to the industries and jobs that will be there in the future, not just today.

Clean hydrogen, energy storage, even lower cost solar, low emissions steel and aluminium - and much more, will see Australians benefit from global energy transition that is already under way, and we can’t pretend is not occuring.

I am determined that the gains will outweigh the costs.

Knowing what’s truly important: jobs, more affordable power, lower emissions, and an Australia that is competitive.

Importantly we will bring on major new investments in our regions to support:

New energy generation - as we decarbonise and electrify our economy.  

We aren’t afraid of power - or hold our noses when it comes to power generation. Our goal is to expand the power sector with a large roll out of new renewable and Carbon Capture and Storage projects.

Projects that will be foundational to the continued growth of the Australian economy.

We are investing and will invest further in Hydrogen - creating a major new industry providing hydrogen both for exports and for domestic use. 

These projects will become major regional energy, industry and jobs centred on areas like Gladstone, the Hunter, Darwin, the Pilbara, Whyalla and the Upper Spencer Gulf.

You are going to hear a lot about critical minerals in coming years as well.

Australia will be a world leader - mining and processing rare earths and minerals such as nickel and copper, it’ll boom in order to supply clean energy and new technologies the world over.

And we will be investing in more productive farming - unlocking productivity in our pasture and cropping lands creating incentives to boost solid carbon. 

Under our five technology stretch goals we’re aiming to get soil carbon measurement from over $30 a hectare to under $3 per hectare.

That’s the transformation that achieves the positive change.

Australia has untapped potential as a globally significant source of carbon sequestration in our soils.

Getting carbon measurements costs down will provide our farmers with a valuable additional revenue stream.

And increasing soil carbon concentration can improve farm productivity and crop yields.

That’s why it’s important for agriculture to be part of the plan, to be part of the future with where we’re heading with our low emissions technologies.

Our National Soils Strategy, backed with over $228 million  in investment, is aimed at helping farmers care for our land and soils.

For example, we’re investing in:

  • a National Soils Minoring and Incentive Pilot program to improve our understanding of the condition of our soils; and
  • a National Soil Science Challenge to help address gaps in soil knowledge

We want our farmers to be rewarded for their efforts and their innovation.

That’s why, through the leadership of Minister Littleproud, we are delivering the $66 million Agriculture Stewardship Package.

As part of this, we’re trialling the Carbon + Biodiversity Program, a market-based mechanism aimed at rewarding farmers for increasing biodiversity while also sequestering carbon and receiving payments under the ERF.

Today, you will hear that both sides of politics are saying they can achieve net zero by 2050, or at least setting that target.

But I want to be clear: only the Liberals and Nationals, only the Coalition actually has a plan and having no plan puts future wellbeing at risk.

It’s a blank cheque.

Labor won’t say how they’ll get there. In fact, they’ve be highly critical of our technology not taxes plan.

I’ll tell you, if you’re not getting there by technology, then the way they’ll seek to get there is by punishing through taxes, punishing industries they don’t like, making the false choices of those who don’t live in rural and regional areas, and imposing those costs on those in the bush.

It’ll come with greater regulation and mandates, telling you what to do in rural and regional Australia.

We don’t share that view.

We believe that in the bush people are making their own choices now. They’re taking their own actions, they’re moving forward, they’re making decisions. They’re actually part of this process already, that has already seen our emissions come down by more than 20% and our economy grow by 45%.

You’re already doing it, and we just want to back you in to do it.

We don’t want to tax you to do it.

We don’t want to put restrictions on you.

We don’t want to put new laws on you and legislate you.

We just want to get on with it, and enable the technological changes that you’ve always known.

You’ve always know that the science and technology are what happens on your property, in your manufacturing industries, in the regional towns and centres all across the country, in the mines, in the transport sector, on the roads.

All of that, you’re already doing. And we want to back you in.

That’s why I believe you can be confident that the Coalition understands regional Australia and rural Australia, understands its place in our country - and in our economy.

Of course we’ve wrestled with this. But we feel this in our bones.

There’s an outlook, an ethos, a way of life, that is part of rural and regional Australia.

And I promise, we will always serve to protect it - and we will promote it and celebrate it.

Because we get it.

We instinctively understand how intrinsic the way of life is in rural and regional Australia to who we all are as Australians.

So I want to be very clear: Only the Coalition has a plan, and will stand up and be strong to ensure that we keep Australia strong, our economy strong, our rural and regional areas strong.

A plan that keeps those regions moving forward.

A plan that is strong for more affordable power.

And we’ll stand up to those who will seek to want to shut things down, stand up to those who’ll want to shut you down.

We have a plan that enables us to go through that together, and ensure that we don’t have to have those punishing mandates and regulation and taxes that others think are the answer.

We don’t think that’s the answer, we think you are.

And a plan that involves you at its centre, is a plan that delivers net zero by 2050.

Not taking jobs - certainly not in farming, and not in mining or gas. That has a strong future.

Ours is a uniquely Australian plan: an energy, trade and economic plan, not just an environmental one.

It focuses on our national interests, and keeps our traditional advantages in the regions.

That’s what we are working towards.

So I want to thank you all again for coming together with the Tele for this important Bush Summit.

I wish you all the very best for your discussions.

I’m sorry I couldn’t be there, and we couldn’t all be there in person once again, but I’m looking forward to that opportunity down the road.

So thanks again everyone, and I’m pleased I’ve been able to share these views and updates with you. And I’m sure you’ll be looking forward to hearing from Barnaby shortly and through the course of the Summit.

Thanks everyone, all the best.