MPI – Resources Industry

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Mr PITT: Just to be clear, I won’t be resigning, even though it’s been suggested by the opposition. I get on very well with the shadow minister. She’s actually got her head screwed on, and she understands the industry. She’s across a lot of the brief, and of course there are many things on which we work collegially and we certainly get some good outcomes. In terms of this MPI, I’ll go through the issues, particularly the ones that have been raised, but I do want to bring the focus back to the individuals that work in the sector.

As I said in question time, I’ve been contacted by a gentleman called Kenzy Gillespie. Kenzy is an apprentice electrician. He works at the Moranbah North mine, which I visited in recent weeks. Kenzy was on the opposite shift, so I didn’t get a chance to see him. He says to me in his email that he thought I might remember him because he had contacted me earlier in the year. He went on to say:

I was not fortunate enough to be rostered on here at Moranbah north mine today as I would have loved to have met you. Although myself, and all of our Anglo employees are very fortunate to have secured our positions throughout this mine, I can assure you as a 22 year old I have been setup for life with this golden opportunity that is at our feet here in the resources sector.

Because of this I was able to buy my first house at 19, I went on to hold that for 2.5 years and have recently sold that and am looking for acreage around the Mackay region to start primary producing on my days off, all of this would be to no avail without these incredible opportunities in front of us.

Kenzy goes on to say he wants to acknowledge the consistent hard work of all the men and women in the industry and thank me personally for the visit to Moranbah North mine, an Anglo operation. So, every time I consider a policy, every time I consider the sector and every time I look at what we need to do, I keep people like Kenzy front and centre in my mind. Fundamentally, our job is to deliver for the people of Australia and to ensure that they have opportunities into the future, and that is absolutely what I intend to continue to do.

Those opposite talk about the government’s abandonment of the Australian resource industry. Let’s just have a look at what that abandonment looks like right now. There’s never been a better time to be in the sector—there has not. Thermal coal prices are absolutely through the roof. They are at record levels. The spot price today is over US$240, given an exchange rate of roughly 75c—I haven’t looked at today’s current update. They’re out there putting these things in wheelbarrows and running them down the road to get them into a ship so they can get them out for sale. Not many of those opposite will understand what a wheelbarrow is—it’s something you do hard work with!

Fundamentally, there are opportunities right across the sector. We know that there’s been an early winter snap, particularly in parts of Asia. That has driven up a demand for gas, so gas prices are also up. I’ll say categorically that Australia’s coal sector, regardless of what some opposite may say, has an incredibly strong and important future. Demand will continue. The forecast that I have is that demand will actually increase from now out to 2030. By 2050, there’s an expectation that that market will still be just under 20 per cent off that peak, and Australia will look to fill that market. We will fill that market at every opportunity. If buyers want it, we’re selling it. If they want our resources, we’ll be delivering them, because it is good for our economy. It’s good for the people that I represent. It’s good for every single Australian that is looking for an opportunity.

Briefly, while I’ve got the opportunity, I do want to acknowledge the very, very good work of the sector. One of the things I raised with all of the major companies on appointment was my expectation that they hire and train more young Australians. I’m advised that roughly 5,700 apprentices and trainees have been put on in the sector in the last 12 months. That is more than they’ve put on altogether for some years. This is a very, very good result. I do want to acknowledge and thank the sector for the work that they are doing with young Australians to give them not only opportunity but also skills—skills that are transferable, skills that people like Kenzy use to go and pay for a house to set themselves up for their future life and future opportunities.

Coal will continue to be a strong part of the economy right throughout Australia, whether it’s Newcastle or whether it’s Queensland and whether it’s thermal coal or whether it’s met coal. In fact, we export enough iron ore, for example, to build 10,000 Sydney Harbour Bridges a year. Our met coal sector is incredibly strong. It’s rough and ready. Met and thermal are worth about $50 billion to the economy. It’s around 50,000 direct jobs and around 300,000 indirect jobs. Practically all of those are in regional areas, and we want to make sure that the sector continues to be strong.

In terms of gas, we’re one of the world’s largest exporters of gas. All of the forecasts that I’ve seen expect gas demand to increase. This is why we are driving forward with the gas-led recovery. This is why I’ve announced a strategic basin plans program. This is why we’ve gone to areas like the Beetaloo, looking to get that development brought forward by some two to three years on previous expectations. Without that gas, who fills the market? Our competitors do. Without that gas, how do we keep our domestic prices low? Unless we continue to fill not only the east coast market but the whole country with affordable, reliable energy, our manufacturers can’t be competitive. This is why we continue to support the sector.

As those opposite outlined, the ‘abandonment’ of the sector looks pretty good: the forecast is that we’ll do a record year. We’re going to do $346 billion. That’s the estimate, in terms of exports, for resources and energy. That sounds alright to me—up almost $100 million out of the midst of the pandemic. There is no other sector in this country that can turn around $100 billion in economic activity other than the resources sector.

I’ve been to a number of sites in recent weeks—as you know, Deputy Speaker Llew O’Brien, we’ve been caught up in Queensland by border restrictions and everything else—including the Bravus mine. Bravus were previously known as Adani. We went in recent weeks. They are at first coal. They’re starting to build their stockpile. They’ve got an expectation that they’ll have first deliveries sometime before Christmas. What has that mine done? It’s provided jobs for more than 2,000 Australians—2,000 individuals. It’s delivered over $1 billion worth of contracts into, in particular, regional cities and regional contractors.

I was up in Townsville when the new trains arrived. They’ve arrived in Townsville. I was fortunate to be there with Andrew Wilcox, the mayor of the Whitsunday Regional Council. The local member for Dawson and other local members in the area came along. The member for Dawson had a great quote. These trains were big and bright and orange, and the member for Dawson said, ‘These are giant orange job-making machines,’ and I think that that is exactly right. The Bowen Rail Company has been set up by Bravus as part of their operations based out of Bowen, a small regional centre, delivering jobs for regional towns and regional economies.

I was in Gladstone at the QCLNG plant with Col Boyce, the member for Callide, where we saw firsthand just how important the gas sector is. This is a sector that’s grown in just a decade. It’s worth tens of billions of dollars. This is Australia’s resources sector at work, delivering to markets where, right now, there is some very significant demand. As the shadow minister outlined, we know that exports totalled $30 billion in 2021, and get this: they are forecast to climb to $56 billion in 2021-22—$30 billion to $56 billion in a year. That is incredibly good for the Australian economy. This is how, when we talk about royalties from things like coal, governments, particularly state governments, pay for the essential services that Australians rely on. This is how they pay for hospitals and roads and schools. This is how they pay for police forces and health workers—along with support from the Commonwealth. The taxation from the sector helps the Commonwealth to deliver our facilities and our policies across Australia. Can you imagine where we would be without it? This is a significant contributor to the Australian economy, and right now they are going incredibly well.

Whether you’re in Moranbah North, whether you’re at Bravus, formerly known as Adani, whether you’re in Townsville, whether you’re in Newcastle, whether you’re across the Hunter, whether you’re in the Pilbara, whether you’re in any of those regional areas in the Northern Territory—many of them rely, in terms of their jobs, on the resources sector being strong and successful. It is this government that intends to continue that success. It is this government that intends to continue providing those opportunities.

I want to come back once again to the work that’s been done by the sector on apprentices and trainees. It’s something that I look at, personally, as a former apprentice and as someone that did start by sweeping the floor in a workshop. That opportunity was given to me by heavy industry. I was very fortunate as a 17-year-old kid to get a start. The skills that I learnt took me through a trade. I now find myself here, and I want as many kids as possible in Australia to have those opportunities. Those opportunities are available in the resources sector right now. They are there right now. There are almost 40,000 vacancies. Everyone is looking for workforce. Everyone is looking to try and fill those slots, because right now the market is hot, whether it’s gas or whether it’s coal—even iron ore is still incredibly strong.

I want to give a shout-out to the sector, whether they’re in the west, whether they’re in the east, whether they’re in coal, whether they’re in met coal, whether they’re in gas, whether they’re in iron ore or any of the critical minerals facilities. We need to train more kids. We need to grow our own timber. They are the ones who are available. I want to see every single Australian kid that wants a job in the sector get that job, learn those skills and go on to be as successful as they choose to be.

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