Question without notice – Mining
Mr O’DOWD: My question is to the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia—the place to be! Will the minister outline to the House how the McCormack-Morrison government is committed to the resources sector and explain why programs like Exploring for the Future are so important to job creation and securing Australia’s economic recovery?
Mr PITT: I thank the honourable member for Flynn for his question. I was up in the honourable member’s area in recent weeks, and on the ground Ken O’Dowd is known as ‘the member for coal’. He’s known as someone who actually stands up for the resources sector and the jobs that it creates.
We know that regional Australia has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. But we know that they are resilient, we know that they are looking to recover and we know that the resources sector will be an enormous part of what this country does into the future. Over 240,000 Australians are still employed in the resources sector. In the member for Flynn’s electorate, anywhere from Gladstone to Emerald, from Emerald to Taroom, and right across, they know the resources sector is keeping the lights on in this country. They are the ones out there working hard, all the way through the challenges of coronavirus.
Our JobMaker plan is for the long term. Our JobMaker plan is for a secure future for all Australians—for all Australians. This is why we continue to invest in the resources sector. This is why we on this side of the House actually support the resources sector—whether it’s coal, thermal or met; whether it’s gas; whether it’s gold; or whether it’s critical minerals. We actually support the people that work in this sector. We continue to support them.
Recently I announced $125 million for the Exploring for the Future fund. And why is that important? Because we know it works and, in the future, it will help create jobs. We know how successful the first Exploring for the Future was. In fact, on the back of the data produced through the Exploring for the Future program, over an area of about 130,000 square kilometres—that’s twice the size of Tasmania, I’m advised—some 16 companies are out there doing exploration, looking for the next big thing. If just one of those 16 hits paydirt, there’s an expectation they could create over 1,100 new jobs and up to $2½ billion worth of benefit to the local and national economy. So this is a very important investment for the future of our country, but it does require support for the resources sector from not only governments but also, in particular, those opposite. We need to be united in what will drive our country forward. We need to support the sectors which continue to support our nation and its growth, particularly when it comes to employing people like apprentices.
I’ve been in Cairns and Gladstone and Townsville and Emerald, and in Cloncurry and Mount Isa and all the way from Goondiwindi to Moree to Dubbo to Wagga to Orange in recent weeks, and the people of regional Australia are resilient. They know they will recover. They know the resources sector, the ag sector and others will be the backbone of our economy, as they have been over a long period of time. It is people like Ken O’Dowd and other members in regional areas who are out there fighting for their sectors, fighting for jobs and fighting for the resources sector—and long may it be so, because that is how we’ll recover.