Press Conference, Christmas Creek Mine, WA

15 Apr 2021
Prime Minister

ANDREW FORREST: We’re very honoured to have the Honourable Melissa Price, the Honourable Scott Morrison, Prime Minister, here at Christmas Creek, and it is an historical evening. We’ve shown the leaders of our country what is the future of our country. Here you have miles and miles of solar panels, which we will combine with wind, which will eventually power the entire Pilbara, and we will be building gigawattage which is equivalent to what Australia powers itself with as a nation. I’m really excited that I can make these statements as we stand on the men and women’s shoulders who have built Fortescue, those tens of thousands of great Australians who have made the company which has been able to transform the iron ore industry, exist, grow and thrive here in Australia. With no further ado, the head of Australia, Scott Morrison.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Andrew, it’s great to be here with you, it’s great to be hear with your whole team, and joined by Melissa who’s not just my fellow cabinet member, but also the local member for an electorate that spans about three quarters to two thirds of Western Australia. It’s tremendous to be here, to see first hand, the sheer scale of what is being achieved by Fortesuce, over the last years. The word pioneer is thrown around quite a lot, but it’s one that sits very comfortably on Andrew Forrest’s shoulders. What you see achieved with the scale of the industrial processors here, the people more importantly who have been brought together to make what Fortescue does a reality, is quite breathtaking. But you’d think as tonight we mark 1.5 billion tonnes of product coming out of these mines, you’d think that would be enough, but not for Fortescue and not for Andrew Forrest because he now looks forward with his team bringing the sharpest and smartest minds, working together on projects that are not only going to transform the resources industry here in Australia in the way they use energy but it’s going to change how Australia uses energy. And I think there is every prospect, because of the keen level of international interest in what is happening here and the work that is being done to genuinely change how the world operates, particularly in the resources sector. I’m very passionate and proud of what Australians are doing to change the technology that enables them to achieve great things. Energy is central to that. It’s the thing that drives our economy. It always has. And we need to change gear over the next 30 years, and that’s exactly what’s happened. These things don’t happen by accident, and they don’t happen by the actions of government, certainly not alone. It is a genuine partnership, it is a genuine working together that sees these ideas, exciting ideas, frankly brave ideas Andrew, but you’re no stranger to those. And to get your best people to solve them and get them here on the ground, what we’re seeing the beginning of here, over these last 12 months and Andrew and I have spoken many times now, particularly over the course of this year. We’ve met in Canberra earlier this year, just before Australia Day, with the exciting work that’s being done on green hydrogen and how that works in with the broader resources sector and indeed into the steel industry itself. And there is already considerable interest in how that’s progressing in Japan and so many other countries, where Australia is forming energy partnerships with those countries, and what better way to put the substance in the partnerships when you’re talking about real projects being demonstrated here on the ground. Private capital is going into this project in particular, and we’re in discussion with further players we’re working with in the future, so, it’s really exciting, it is really groundbreaking. The ground that has already been broken here over the past twenty years that’s a story all on itself and I’m looking forward tonight to catching up with the men and women who’ve made that possible here. One of the reasons I was so keen to get to WA this week was to say thank you to Western Australians for the incredible job they've done and particularly over the past year. But I really want to thank the resources industry of Western Australia and of course, everyone here at Christmas Creek and right across the Fortescue family and right across the resources industry, I'm sure Andrew would join me in saying thank you for the amazing job that you have done. The earnings that you've been able to generate in one of Australia's toughest years has kept our economy going. The fact that there are more Australians employed today than there were at the start of the pandemic and the way the Australian economy is coming out of this COVID pandemic recession, in large part you can say thank you to the resources industry, especially here in Western Australia and the leadership that's been shown, the hard work, keeping those operations going, dealing with the challenges of our borders and other limitations and supply chain disruptions and all of these things. But I can tell you that the people who work for Fortescue understand how to solve hard problems. And there's a lot of big challenges ahead. So I want to congratulate you Andrew, and to your entire team, Melissa.

THE HON. MELISSA PRICE MP: I'm very proud. And I just want to have an opportunity to say how proud I am of all the thousands of West Australians, in particular in my electorate, who work in the Pilbara. And I just want to thank Andrew and the Fortescue team for making us feel very welcome here today. And just acknowledge just what powerful work Fortescue did together with all the other mining companies in Western Australia that kept our nation moving in the right direction during COVID-19 the efforts that they made to keep their own community safe, the change in structures, it was just unbelievable. So thank you for your contribution to our economy to make sure that we are coming out of COVID on the right side. So thanks for the opportunity to be here tonight. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks Melissa, look, we’ve got time for one or two questions.

QUESTION: Prime Minister this is the first press conference [inaudible] since Greg Hunt’s press conference with a Chinese Government official last year, has the hatchet been buried and would you like to see Mr Forrest help you in repairing Australia’s relationship with China?

PRIME MINISTER: First of all there’s no hatchet. Andrew and I have known each other for some time. When I was Treasurer, and as Prime Minister, and we've been on the phone to each other, quite regularly, over the last several months and working together to try and assist with this project and in his many travels, particularly last year as he was going through that process of researching and engaging with other countries around the world to gauge interest, he was keeping me regularly, regularly informed. In fact, we were talking about President Ghani earlier today and the last conversation I had with President Ghani, he spoke to me about Andrew, talked about his horse riding skills. But Prime Minister Marape, a great friend of mine, but also now a very good friend of Andrew’s, spoke about him going there and arranging those get-togethers. And I remember that they snapped a selfie of each other at dinner that night and sent it to me. So, look, Andrew and I have worked together for a long time. And the reason for that, we obviously get along well, but more importantly, we believe in what this country can achieve. And I like working with people who know how to get things done and few people I know how to get things done than Andrew. Whatever challenge it is, whether it's the ones you're talking about or others. I'm always looking to work with people who know how to get things done.

QUESTION: Prime Minister there’s been a third blood clot death linked to the Astrazeneca vaccine today. What’s your reaction to that initially? And how concerned are you about the impact it could have on vaccine confidence?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, my advice is that the federal and state authorities are still investigating that matter and seeking further clinical information. So at this point, I don't think it would be helpful to me to say anything more than that at this point. I think there's a lot more to understand and learn about that issue. And I would caution others in making conclusions on this at that point as well.

QUESTION: That woman was only 46. Can you understand that Australians might be a little bit concerned, given that you said the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe for people over the age of 50? That woman was only four years younger than that age.

PRIME MINISTER: All throughout the pandemic, as you know, Lanai, we have been disciplined in listening carefully to the expert medical advice. And Australia has the best expert medical advisers, whether it's through ATAGI or with the Therapeutic Goods Administration or the medical expert panel, these are the best minds that examined this information and give us the right understanding of what events are and what they are, what they mean and how they apply to the various issues that you've raised. And so I think it's important because of the fact that people can have concerns that we follow that important process to inform ourselves properly, to allow those medical experts to make their enquiries and to be able to inform government in an appropriate way. And so for us not to move to any conclusions at this point what's important is that we continue on with the project and we'll certainly do that. And we've been very transparent, very transparent when it comes to information on these issues. And people expect us to do that. OK, thanks very much.