MPI – Energy

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Mr PITT : I’ve got to say, I walked into this MPI with the normal expectations, and they’ve been fulfilled by those opposite. Usually you can sit here and listen to a couple of those opposite make a few notes and come forward with some points to push back on what it is they’re putting forward. I made a few notes about what they’re talking about, and all I’ve got is ‘Angus, Angus, Angus, Angus, Angus, Angus, Angus, Angus, Angus’—not a lot; not a lot at all about process, about policy, about what they propose.

We hear a lot about feasibility studies for the north. Well, we can say very clearly that our government has delivered on our election commitments. A feasibility study is about one thing, and that’s determining whether a project is feasible. That’s why you line up engineers. That’s why you talk to people. That’s why you put together business cases. A feasibility study is about the feasibility of a particular project. So, I thought, given that there’s not much in anything they’ve said, I could move to the other piece, which is of course the differential, the split in those opposite when it comes to coal. But unfortunately the member for Hunter got up and walked out as well. He wasn’t too interested in what was going on. So, I’ve lost one—the member for Hunter versus the rest, and the Otis group. It’s all out the door, because the debate from those opposite is about one thing and one thing only: it’s about coal workers and the coal industry, and they cannot bring themselves to support them.

This is an industry that delivers tens of thousands of jobs to regional Australia—billions of dollars into the Australian economy. It’s what these individuals use to pay for their houses, to pay their mortgages and to put their kids through school, and it should be supported by both sides of the parliament. We hear a lot about the future of the coal sector, and I can tell you that the forecast I have is that there will continue to be increased demand for at least the next 10 years—at least—and even if there is some reduction over the next few decades it is not going to be significant. The reason we will continue to drive coal exports from this country is pretty straightforward: we have one of the best-quality products in the world. It is in demand right around the world. It has a high calorific content. It tends to be low-sulphur and low-ash. That is why individual companies in other countries use our coal—because it is some of the best. It should be supported by both sides of the parliament, not demonised, as it is by those opposite. Quite simply, they cannot land a position.

Our plan around the technology road map is about utilising technology for the benefit of the Australian people based on the resources we have in this country—resources that have been granted to us, which we will continue to utilise for the benefit of all those individuals in Australia. And we should continue to do that, because it drives so many jobs across the resources sector—some 264,000.

What do those opposite have to say about coal? Their current deputy leader said it would be a good thing if thermal coal prices collapsed. I don’t think that would be good news for the individuals who work in the resources sector every single day. We want them to have a job. In fact, at the moment thermal coal prices are up. The spot price today is over $90. That is good news for Australia’s thermal coal producers. Once again I see the member for McMahon has wandered off. He spent a lot of time wandering around Queensland in recent weeks. I am sure he had a guide with him; he wouldn’t find his way to a mine otherwise! But I do welcome the fact that the member for McMahon has gone to a mine to inform himself about the hard work of those individuals in the resources sector.

As we continue to come through the effects of the pandemic, the resources sector has been the shining light of our economy. That is off the back of the hard work of the men and women that are in it. They are the ones who have been out there doing the hard yards. They’ve been away from their families and children. They are the ones who have been in isolation for long periods and doing longer shifts. I’ve got to tell you that I know they are getting tired. They are currently fatigued. There have been some significant challenges, particularly around proposals to shut, and I think that is likely to come to a head soon.

I support the resources sector. I support the work that we are doing around energy. I certainly support the minister for energy and the things he is trying to do around gas, because we need to continue to ensure we keep prices low and that electricity is reliable for those that utilise it, particularly in heavy industry. We know that those opposite are absolutely riven. They do not know what to do. They are torn. They do not support the resources sector, and those people out there don’t believe a word they say.