Remarks, Minerals Council of Australia Parliamentary Dinner

Transcript
03 Jun 2021
Prime Minister

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much Helen. To the Ngunnawal people, can I acknowledge them here tonight, their elders past and present and, of course, for the future. Can I particularly acknowledge the extraordinary work done by the resources sector in partnership with the Indigenous people, all around the country. Tremendous opportunities that are being afforded with decent jobs, a real future, transforming remote, and particularly Indigenous, communities all around the country.

Can I acknowledge any veterans, who are with us tonight, so many veterans who work across our resources industry. When I was up on the Pilbara recently and I was staying on site overnight, the significant number of veterans who find a break-in point in the resources sector, where their training, their skills, their experience, their values, their code, I know is appreciated by the resources sector. Greatly appreciated, and valued, by the resources sector. So to any veterans that are here, or serving members of our defence forces, can I simply say on behalf of a grateful nation, as I always do, thank you for your service. 

To Helen Coonan, Chair of the Minerals Council, it’s great to see you again Helen and thank you for your leadership. Can I extend the same thank you to all the directors of the Minerals Council of Australia.

To Ambassadors and High Commissioners, members of the diplomatic community here tonight. Our partners in the resources sector all around the world. Particularly, who I saw on the way in, the Ambassador to Japan, great to see you here, I’m looking forward to seeing Prime Minister Suga very, very soon. And the tremendous relationship we enjoy with Japan.

To Ms Tania Constable, the CEO of the Minerals Council, to my many colleagues who are here tonight, I’m not going to call the roll, but I’m certainly going to acknowledge the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who is here with us this evening. Michael, thank you for your support not just in the resources sector, but for regional Australia, you’re a great, passionate advocate for regional Australia wherever you are. Keith Pitt. If you’re going to get stuck in a lift on a mining site, he’s the guy you want to be with. We had that experience some time back up in north-western Queensland. I’m glad he knew how to get us out of that lift, and to all of those who helped us on that day, thank you. Keith and I get to many of these places together and Keith gets to so many more. As the Minister for Resources you want to have someone who has his background as an electrical engineer, understands the industry so incredibly well, incredibly well. And thanks for your passion Keith, you really do a great job. I know it is appreciated, certainly by the sector.

Chris Bowen is here this evening, I acknowledge him – the Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy. To the many other Ministers, Senators, and colleagues who are joining us here tonight – and Ian Macfarlane, my old mate. We used to have dinner pretty regularly together when he served in this place, the CEO of the Queensland Resources Council. Can I also acknowledge Tina Arena, that was a nice surprise. No finer talent in this country. I am a self-appointed patron of the Tina Arena appreciation society. Not just in this place but anywhere else. We enjoyed the concert on Saturday night, Jenny and I, Tina, and I heard she may be singing again so I’d like to thank her very much for having me here tonight. I’ll say a few words before she joins us again.

I don’t need to tell you how important the resources sector is. I don’t need to tell myself how important the resources sector is. The Government doesn’t need to be reminded, we know, we get it. We’ve always got it. It’s in our DNA. Today’s National Accounts backed it up again. Mining investment contributing to the recovery. Just like all sectors I note today. Consider National Accounts that showed not only are there more jobs today in the Australian economy than there were before the pandemic, but the Australian economy is bigger today than it was before the pandemic. This is an extraordinary contribution that has been made by the Australian people, this is an Australian-led recovery. What we saw in the household sector, what we saw in dwelling investment, but particularly what we saw in business investment. The supports that we have put in the Australian economy, over the course of the past 18 months, and particularly the past 12 months, as we’ve moved through the pandemic in Australia has saved lives and livelihoods, arguably better than almost any other country in the world today. Our economic supports to save livelihoods was all about ensuring that we could restore a business-led economy. Our plans are not designed to put government at the centre of the economy. Our plans are not about government being at the centre of the economy. Our plans were always about ensuring that businesses, as they have led our economy to great prosperity in the past, will continue to lead our economy to great prosperity in the future for the benefit of all Australians.

And so as the Government stepped in as was necessary and as the second pandemic Budget indicates, we continue to lean in. Our objective though is quite different, as to what some might seek. And that is that we would continue to see business strengthen and as business strengthens, it relies less and less and less on the taxpayer. With initiatives such as the instant expensing initiative and so many others that invest in business investment across this country, we are seeing business stand tall on its feet again. We’re seeing the Australian economy stand tall on its feet again. But this was in no small part due to the extraordinary work done by our resources sector over the course of the past 12 to 18 months. It was a great privilege for Melissa Price and I, in her electorate, to be in the Pilbara, and to stand there with mine workers and say thank you. Thank you for being on site, thank you for being on the job. Thank you for persisting through the difficulties of being separated from family, often because of border closures. People who haven’t seen their families, if they lived in other states, for a long period of time. But they stayed on the tools. And because they stayed on the tools, the Australian economy has seen its way through to this great point where we can say on the basis of the National Accounts that our economy is bigger today than it was before the pandemic hit. Now they can’t say that in the United Kingdom, the United States, or so many other advanced economies around the world. They can’t say it, it hasn’t happened there. But it has happened here. And a key part of that has been the contribution of the resources sector over the course of this past 18 months. Now we intend for that to continue. We intend for that to continue.

And our plan to support that is pretty straightforward. Firstly get the fundamentals right. Lower taxes, only the regulation that’s necessary, affordable energy, the skills you need to do the job. These fundamentals set resources companies up for success and ensure that they are competitive. It’s no small thing to do what the resources sector does and every, every inch you can take, every inch you can take in improving the performance of that site. Prices change, they’re high, they’re low, they come, they go. But the basis of the success of any resources operation is how they work, and how hard they work to ensure it costs as little and to produce as much as they possibly can. That is what the resources sector can achieve better when they’re not being loaded up with higher taxes as some would like to do and have in the past. Or hold them back through legislation or regulation that cripples investment and stymies investment, the fundamentals have got to be right for the resources sector to perform. To strengthen our access to markets in an uncertain world. To support diversification, both in markets and sector strength, that is the second tier of what we are doing. The third is to drive more value add here in Australia, including capitalising on our resource base to support new industries as we lower global emissions.

This is about future proofing the industry in a world of strategic uncertainty and sweeping economic and technological change, including what we know is a far-reaching transition in the global energy economy, or what I call new energy. It’s real. It’s going to have a significant impact on the operations of all Australian businesses both now and in the future. We are preparing Australia to be, not just able to survive in that economy, but to thrive in it. And to be successful in that economy.

This plan is being pursued on many fronts. $20 million in this Budget for the Global Resources Strategy to diversify exports and find new markets. Unlocking and accelerating development through the Strategic Basin Plans. Which all of my members in my Government support, I can assure you. Ensuring the sector has the workers and skills it needs through the National Resources Workforce Strategy which was announced in February 2021. $124.5 million to expand the Exploring for the Future Program to drive investment by providing industry with data about potential mineral, energy and groundwater resources. $100 million in this Budget to expand the Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive Scheme. And this builds on taking a proactive approach in last year’s Budget through our modern manufacturing scheme. And through assistance from the export finance Australia, and working with partner nations on off-take agreements, particularly on the modern manufacturing strategy, the resources sector, is a key sector that we've highlighted as an area of strategic importance. It's one of our six key sectors, where we are focusing on channelling our efforts of support. Now particularly in these latter areas, Lynas has been leading the way. But there have been many other projects that have taken shape. The Albermarle lithium project at Kemerton. The Iluka rare earths project at Eneabba. And many others like the Arafura project in the Northern Territory and the ASM project in Dubbo.

Now, I want Australia to show the world how resource manufacturing and heavy industries can work in a low emissions and indeed a net zero economy when it comes to emissions. I call this the Frank Sinatra approach. We're going to do it our way in Australia, the Australian way. If we can do it in the Pilbara, if we can do it there, we can do it anywhere, as Frank used to sing about New York. And this is the approach we have to take, Australia is going to lead the world in low emissions production in the resources sector. And the very sector, the very sector, that many far from here might suggest, might suggest that is a reason why Australia, they would allege, is not making the commitments that are necessary. Quite the reverse will be proof. In the resources sector, you will demonstrate, as you already are, how Australia will be successful in the new energy economy in adapting in new technologies, in new fuels, in new methods, in new partnerships, in new supply-chains. You will demonstrate, in fact, the resources sector, in my view, will be the pin-up industry in this country for how Australia will be not just making commitments as many will want to do, but importantly are meeting those commitments and beating those commitments. Australia has already reduced emissions by over 20 per cent on 2005 levels. Over 20 per cent. That's a fact. That is something that you have helped achieve. And the commitments that we’ve made out to 2030, you will help us meet. And more than help us meet it, I think you will showcase how Australia is beating them. And so the very industry that many have sought to use to try and talk Australia down when it comes to these issues, is the very industry that will prove Australia is a leader when it comes to new energy, that Australia is a leader in job generation and job creation. The Australian way, which says we can make these commitments and not forsake our heavy industries, not forsake our mining industries. And most importantly, not forsake the people of regional Australia, who others would seek to have us ignore for the sake of pursuing those commitments. We believe both can be achieved and will be achieved, because I have great confidence in the skills and capacity of the resources sector to achieve that. We want to produce amongst the cheapest green hydrogen in the world by 2030 and 2050.

The Budget included $275 million in additional funding for clean hydrogen export hubs. Hydrogen hubs could be located in areas facing transitional pressures and nearby transmission assets making them prospective sites for alternative energy-related uses. Examples of projects include: the Alinta-Fortescue Chichester Solar Gas Hybrid project, which will displace 100 million litres of diesel generation annually from the Pilbara. The Rio Tinto Gudai-Darri solar plant, which will reduce Rio Tinto's annual CO2 emissions by about 90,000 tonnes, and create 2,000 construction jobs and 600 operational jobs. Aurizon is investing some $50 million in low carbon technologies, including battery and hydrogen power for its trains. Kirkland Lake Gold is investing $100 million in technology centres to reduce its carbon footprint. Methane capture at Anglo American’s metallurgical coal operations is generating 140MW of electricity, powering 90,000 homes and reducing emissions by 5 Mt of CO2-e per annum (that’s 1 per cent of total emissions in Australia). Glencore’s carbon transport and storage project will show how carbon capture can work on an industrial scale. The Budget has $265 million to support the development of CCS technology. No nervousness or defensiveness from my Government when it comes to carbon capture and storage. We don't need to [inaudible] at all. I'm a huge supporter of these efforts because they demonstrate a very practical Australian approach.

The types of projects I've said to you, are the Australian way. We will make our path to net zero. But, we will set it. We will not have it determined by others. We will do it in accordance with Australia's national interest and the interests of Australian jobs and the young people of this country who know they could have a future in the very industry represented here tonight all around the country. That is the path that we're setting. We will set it together with the Australian people and the industries that employ people all around this country. And we will not put those industries at risk or those jobs at risk to pursue it, because we know that that is not necessary. It just requires the application of the approach that focuses on championing technology, which has always transformed industries and has always transformed economies.

The Budget backs this up, with solid initiatives. It provides some $565 million for low emissions international partnerships. In just the next couple of weeks, I'll be meeting with the G7 leaders and others, including President Moon of South Korea. And these are the issues that I'll be discussing with them, amongst many others. And I'll be able to talk about what Fortescue is doing in seeking to change how they operate and partner with those who are looking to make steel in different ways all around the world, and all around this country, and so many other innovations that I have already referred to. Because I will be demonstrating that Australia is making its path and we are getting results and we're going to continue to do that into the future. But there are things also that can put this at risk. Practical things. We're a practical government. And we know that the EPBC Act needs reform and we currently have those reforms before the Parliament. Reforms that pose a simple question. Does Labor want your projects to go ahead or be held back by unnecessary red tape? That's the question we're putting to the Opposition in the Parliament.

Now, when we brought together these reforms, and I acknowledge Minister Sussan Ley who is with us here tonight, who brought those reforms together. No one is debating about reducing the environmental standards that apply. The industry is not debating it either. They're just simply saying "they're the standards, why does it have to take so long?" Uphold the standards, apply the standards, ensure they are followed. And that is our government's view. Absolutely, our government's view. The proposals we're seeking to have legislated aren't about changing the standards one way or the other, they're ensuring that decisions get made faster and consistent with those standards. When I took this to the National Cabinet, all states agreed that this was an important reform. Labor, Liberal states, Chief Ministers, Premiers from all the states and territories said this was an important regulatory reform which should pass the Parliament. But Labor is standing in the way when it comes to that legislation. It's important that legislation passes. It's important that those who are seeking to invest in this country, invest in a country which now because of the various tax incentives and other arrangements we put in place that means tax on new investment in this country, it’s not 30 per cent, it's not 25 per cent, it is 21 per cent, according to the work done by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. But you can create incentives, you can [inaudible] and you can put it in your boardroom. But when you have to start engaging with a process that is long winded and costs you money and costs Australian jobs, well, that's not OK. And our proposals are designed to change that.

So if people want to stand at this platform and tell you they're for the resources industry, they need to vote for this Bill. And if they don't vote for this Bill, you can't believe them. You can't believe them. They can give as fine-as speeches as you like here, but if they don't support this Bill that actually brings forward investment decisions that means jobs in the resources sector, that uphold the environmental standards then they don’t really support it. They do not support resources.

We are also focused on changes to the ARENA arrangements, to ensure that we can provide support for energy efficiency projects, carbon capture technologies, including backstop technologies like direct air capture, clean hydrogen projects to reduce emissions in aluminium cement and steel, soil carbon technologies. And we want ARENA to be able to do that. And those projects are all incredibly important to the resources sector. If you're for the resources sector, you'll support those changes. If you're not for the resources sector, you'll vote against them. The Labor Party is going to vote against them and they're terribly riven within their own ranks when it comes to those issues. On our side of politics, in my government, we're all for it. We're all for it. Because we want to see these investments take place and these technologies emerge and we want to see Australia be competitive in the new energy economy.

Gas basins - we're focused on unlocking those new gas basins. Beetaloo basin, in particular, for example is one of the world's largest undeveloped onshore gas resources. We're for it. Absolutely for it. We understand the important role gas will play, particularly over the next 30 years and more. We're all for it. But not everybody in this place is for it. If you're for the resources sector, you're for it. If you don't, you're against it. Our greenfield agreements. We sought to have those greenfield arrangements legislated through the Parliament. We'd like to see them still legislated through the Parliament. They're important for investment, they’re important for jobs, they're important for the resources sector. We're for it. We've always been for it. Our opponents in this place are against it.

You may say, "why has he come along and been so partisan and talked about these issues?" I'm talking about the policies, I'm talking about the things that make a difference in your business. The policies my Government is seeking to put in place to ensure that [inaudible, you can earn more for Australia, in the same way that you have over the last 18 months, which has seen this country and our economy perform better than almost any other advanced economy in the world. You did that. Australians all across this country did that. We enabled them to do it. We did our part and you did your part. This Parliament needs to do its part to ensure that you can keep doing it. The sorts of changes I've talked to you about tonight, these important legislation, on regulation, on new energy technologies, on greenfield sites developed, on gas basins being opened up. This is all critical to Australia's economic future. And we will fight for this. And we will continue to pursue this. Because we believe in your sector. That is the test, if you're for the resources sector and regional jobs in this country. If you're opposed to those things, you are seeking to have no part in the future of regional Australia and industries that support it.

A lot to get done. You're doing it. We greatly appreciate the partnership we have with the sector all across the country. But mostly, as I conclude, I'm just incredibly grateful. Incredibly grateful for what you have done over the course of these last 18 months. For those working on site, for those working back at the head office, for those seeking the additional finance, for those keeping the show on the road. For every single one of those days, you are a partner in the great result we saw today for Australia, in our economy being stronger than it was before the pandemic because of your efforts and there are more Australians in work today than there were before the pandemic because of your efforts. Thank you very much for your contribution to Australia.