PM Morrison writing at his desk in his prime ministerial office

Minerals Council of Australia Dinner

Speech
13 Feb 2019
Canberra, ACT
Prime Minister
E&OE

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you so much Vanessa for that introduction. I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments that you’ve expressed, talking about this most important of sectors which I want to talk to you about tonight. So members of the diplomatic corps and Parliamentary colleagues who are here, particularly the Deputy Prime Minister, Matt Canavan the Resources Minister I see over here, he’ll be talking to you at breakfast in the morning. Greg Hunt I can see here. But if I keep going and call the roll we’ll be here all night, because I know there are so many of my Coalition colleagues here. Maybe they might, if they’re here in the room tonight, maybe you could just stand so I can acknowledge you all in one round sweep.

[Applause]

Of course Melissa Price the Environment Minister and the president of the Senate and you can see the Government is very supportive in your presence here this evening. To the chairman of the Minerals Council of Australia Vanessa Guthrie, the directors of the MCA, to Tania Constable, ladies and gentlemen. Can I also acknowledge the Ngunnawal People, elders past and present and leaders emerging.

There’s a Shire expression. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about it’s that wonderful southern part of Sydney. We have our own language and if we like something, this is what we say; “How good is mining?” That’s what we say. That expresses with a strong statement that we get it. We understand the value and we understand the contribution, we understand the complexities, we understand what you manage and this produces a good result.

As  Prime Minister, you don’t have to have been a former Treasurer to understand how important the mining sector is, I know your tax bills. Thank you.

[Laughter]

You don’t have to hold the industry leaders in great esteem – which I do, it’s wonderful to see you Hugh Morgan here tonight, a wonderful pioneer and legend of the sector and industry, it’s great to see you Hugh –

[Applause]

And you also don’t have to just appreciate, as you were saying, the connection between mining and agriculture. The thing that is most pressing on my mind right now, more than any other issue, is what is happening in north Queensland. The devastation we’re seeing particularly in the cattle industry, which I know is not your sector but I know you care about it. Because I know the mining sector will be working hand-in-glove in all of those communities in north Queensland as we all work together to rebuild that great industry on the other side of these devastating floods. Give yourselves a round of applause, because I know you’re going to be there.

[Applause]

In these rural and remote communities, I’ve seen it; the connection between these powerhouse industries that drive the local economy and infuse the local community. The public relations manager at Glencore up in Cloncurry is the president of the Cloncurry Bowls Club. That’s not unusual, to have those connections that exist within these communities. So as a Liberal National Prime Minister I want to assure you that we understand the contribution at every level.

We also understand and you don’t have to be an economic genius to work out, that you always play to your strengths. As part of the economic plan that I announced a couple of weeks ago up in Brisbane, I said it’s our plan to drive forward all of our industries – not just the bright shiny new ones. Now they’re exciting, they’re great, they’re tremendous, the medical industry as Greg knows, we had that in the last Budget, technology industries, tremendous. But agriculture, mining, always our strengths. You don’t walk away from your strengths as a country and you always play to them. That’s what we’ll always do, in recognising the mining sector here in Australia and the resources sector.

It helped make us the success story that we are. It helped build a strong Australia and as a Prime Minister who wants to see Australia even stronger, how could you not have the strength and viability and sustainably for the long term in the mining sector, in such a plan? So we do.

It has given life to regional cities and communities, from Ballarat, Bendigo and Broken Hill, to Mount Isa, Karratha and Kalgoorlie. It has shaped the contours of our development, the design of our inland railways and almost every port in the country. It has provided long-term benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through local jobs and opportunities for development. Warren Mundine is here tonight and it’s great to have you here with me Warren. It’s great to have you as part of our team.

[Applause]

Yeah, welcome Warren, a great Australian who understands this point very, very well. Cooperation has replaced conflict as Indigenous Australians and the mining industry have worked closely together over recent decades. Australian mining has resourced the astounding growth of our region, from Japan’s post-war development through to the rise of modern China. And I don’t have any issue, in fact I celebrate, as Australia should, the growth of China as an economic powerhouse. Its’ prosperity has meant prosperity for Australia. So don’t let anyone tell you that Australia does not similarly appreciate China’s continued economic growth, it’s been very important to our own success story and will continue to be. There are many companies represented here in this room that of course have been the mainstay of this history and it’s a proud one. It’s one that should be recognised, it should be defended, it shouldn’t be whispered, or not spoken about, as you just take the cheques and pretend the mining sector is not there, as some are prone to do. That’s something our Government will never do. We will celebrate the success of our mining and resources sector. We know the importance of that sector.

My time as Treasurer imprinted those lessons on me. Whether it was the monthly trade figures, the quarterly national accounts or the annual Budget. Mining accounts for almost 10 per cent of our economy. It drives our exports. Resources exports were at $221 billion in 2017/18, 55 per cent of Australian exports by value. You need these numbers. Now, Des was saying it’s more than the statistics; that’s true, but the statistics are pretty flash. Mining employs 240,000 Australians or thereabout, and pays the highest wages in our economy. I was also, as you’d expect, a close observer of commodity prices as Treasurer especially iron ore and coal. It’s 82 free on board US today. Knowing what an important role that plays in sustaining revenues in our tax system, mining remains the life-blood of many communities as I’ve said, directly and indirectly supporting jobs and the volunteer roles that exist around our country.

So we want to see you succeed. I want you succeed, because stronger mining industry means a stronger Australia. A weaker mining industry means a weaker Australia.

That’s why under the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan, is guiding us in our policy to play to our strengths, while opening up new frontiers for Australian mining. Tomorrow, Matt will release the Australian Resources Sector Plan. I won’t spoil it tonight Matt. There you go, thank you. I could if I wanted.

[Laughter]

But in the spirit of our great Coalition, Michael. It plays to our strengths, it builds communities and I encourage you to come along in the morning and I want to congratulate you on the work that you’ve done on that Matt and engaging with the sector as you do, being a champion for the mining and resources sector.

[Applause]

We want to cement Australia’s resources sector as the world’s best.  We’re working to boost minerals exploration and open new basins. Through our Exploring for the Future program, we’re investing $100 million to produce new pre-competitive geoscience data. Our Industry Growth Centres are driving innovation and competitiveness, including in our mining services sector. The Junior Minerals Exploration initiative is providing $100 million to assist junior exploration companies raise additional capital for greenfield exploration programs and I want to particularly acknowledge the work Mathias Cormann has done on that project. We’ve invested around $570 million in low-emissions technology support, through carbon capture and storage, methane abatement and low emissions coal projects. Through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, we’re investing $5 billion in loans over 5 years, for infrastructure projects to benefit northern Australia. I know they are now making loans, after we changed the mandate last year and I’m pleased to see that occurring. The Government is providing $84.4 million to two cooperative research centres conducting research into mineral exploration and today Karen Andrews the Industry Minister, who is doing a cracking job, announced $20 million for critical minerals under CRC project grants.

So we are determined to make sure your sector has the skilled workforce it needs to reach its potential and this is all part of our larger plan to keep the economy strong. At the heart of our plan is a mindset that says; “We want to see,” as I said “all industries grow and succeed,” making for safer, more productive, more sustainable mining, driving all industries forward.

Here’s another thing - I’ll say; “how good is mining,” in Townsville, I’ll say it here in Canberra and I’ll say it in Toorak. You won’t hear a different message from me about mining anywhere around the country, you’ll hear the same message and this is important, because if we want our mining industry to be successful in the future, we must counter those noisy voices which want to shut you down.

[Applause]

I was surprised when I went to Western Australia recently – another reason I like the mining sector is I like West Australians, There’s one down here, good on you Gary - but when they told me that mining engineers weren’t signing up to be trained, because they were being told by noisy, shouty voices that mining doesn’t have a future in this country. I was shocked. In Western Australia? This is something that has to be turned around and it’s not about money. It’s about countering these noisy, shouty voices that don’t understand exactly what Vanessa was saying about the sustainable contribution that will continue to be made, which works in harmony with our environment, in harmony with our community, engaging and supporting our indigenous communities, removing social disadvantage. These are the things our mining sector is doing. It doesn’t get the credit it deserves. I’ll stand up for you. I’m not sure some others will.

The reason I feel so strongly about a stronger economy is this; because if you’re doing well, Greg Hunt can list affordable medicines on the PBS. So when we list Spinraza for spinal muscular atrophy, or any of the other drugs, whether for lung cancer or as it was today, for ovarian cancer or any of these drugs, you are achieving this through what you’re doing. Your success is achieving this and when people try to shut you down, they are taking and robbing from Australians the ability for us to deliver those essential services on the ground. But we understand that and that’s why we’re so keen to see that there is a stronger economy.

The plan I announced a couple of months ago was a plan that has been built on some real success in our economy, in which you’ve played a key part. When we came to government in 2013, we said that we had a goal of 1 million jobs within 5 years. We smashed it, the economy smashed it, the businesses smashed it and we were able to achieve 1.1 million jobs within five years. That’s now over 1.2 million. Unemployment is down to five per cent, the lowest in 7 years. In that plan, I said that we would be able, through the contribution that will come from a growing economy, 1.25 million new jobs, created over the next five years if we stay on that track. But not if we don’t. You can make choices in economic policy, just like you can in any matter of policy. National security policy – take your pick – you make choices and when you make those choices, they have consequences. The consequences of the economic plan that I and my plan are taking to the next election, is 1.25 million new jobs and you’ll be playing a key role in ensuring we deliver on that.

So it’s a plan that keeps our Budget strong, delivers lower taxes and while I’m at it, it means that I can guarantee – on lower taxes – there will be no mining tax under our Government, none.

[Applause]

You might want to check that with the other bloke. And if he says that verbally, I’d get it in writing.

[Laughter]

Our plan will build the infrastructure Australia needs and we’re doing that now, a record 75 billion over the next decade. Highway upgrades, local road and rail projects, including the Inland Rail. The biggest projects, we’ve embarked on. It’s a plan to deliver even more access to overseas markets to you, for exporters.

Free and open trade has been a staple of Australia’s economic growth since forever and critical to boosting living standards. And on the global stage, our Trade Minister, our Treasurer, myself, our Foreign Minister, we have been the advocates for free and open trade, of expanding trade. The TPP, the best example most recently and as we work with EU – I was talking to the ambassador today – continuing to open up more opportunities, because we know that’s what makes us a prosperous country. So, we will always remain committed.

I remember in 2013, when we came to Government and Robbie, Andrew Robb outlined what his plan was. Greg will remember, he was there, he said; “We’re going to get a China Free Trade Agreement,  Japan, Korea, we’re going to do it all.” And we had a discussion about how this was going to be achieved and of course there was the obvious – that no one has ever boosted their political credentials in this country by making this a big part of their economic plan. We acknowledge that. We’ve done a lot of work since then I think to communicate with the Australian people about how important this is and how their jobs are connected to it. We’ve been making that same case around the world. But we decided to do it because we knew it was the right thing to do.

Our Government is one of convictions, whether it’s on economic policy, whether it is on health policy, whether it’s on national security policy. It’s about the convictions that you have that drive your decisions. So there are many other issues, whether it’s energy, whether it’s meeting our environmental commitments, our 26 to 28 per cent reduction in emissions from 2005. I was asked the other day at the Press Club about this - and strangely, quite critically from the Press Gallery - I responded and I said simply this; “What is the measure by which you assess a government’s policies? Surely it’s, did they meet the goals they set out to achieve?” Our goal through the Emissions Reduction Fund and the suite of other policies that we have, was to make sure we met Kyoto 1. Which we did, we smashed it. Kyoto 2, which we we’ll meet comfortably and our 2030 target which we will also meet, as I constantly say, in a canter. That will be very clear as to how that will be achieved between now and the next election, 328 million tonnes we have to make up over the course of that period with measures. The Labor Party on 45 per cent emissions reduction targets – apart from wiping out a number of businesses in this room – requires more than three times that. So do the math yourself and go and see your accountant in terms of what it’s going to mean.

But let me finish on a positive note. Whether it’s ensuring that we keep the Building and Construction Commission, whether it’s keeping taxes down, building infrastructure or expanding our markets, all of this is designed to do one thing; that is to make sure you are successful. But don’t take it personally because there’s a selfish element to this. I know when you’re successful, Australia is successful and that our Government can build an even stronger society, an even stronger economy and an even stronger nation. So in that sense, I want to thank you for your service and I’m going to be calling on it in the future, because we’ve got a lot more work to do and I’m looking forward to doing it.

Thank you very much for your attention.