Questions without notice – COVID-19: Resources Industry

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Mr CONAGHAN (Cowper) (15:10): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Water. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison-Joyce government is sticking to the national plan and supporting the resources sector in taking advantage of increasing demand for Australian minerals, as we safely reopen? And is the minister aware of any alternative policy approaches?

Mr PITT  (15:10): I thank the member for Cowper for his question—a former undercover police officer, but his support for the national plan is not undercover! In fact, he’s been out talking about the vaccination that he received. Why did he get it? Because we owe it to each other. He’s a fabulous member for Cowper, for the people that he represents over there.

As economies around the world continue to open and recover from the pandemic, we know that they’ll invest in more infrastructure, and that infrastructure requires more resources, like iron ore, coal, gas or critical minerals—whether it’s gold, silver or lead—or any of the things that Australia is well known for providing. They can get it from us. We are a reliable supplier, they can rely on us to deliver, and it will be necessary into the future. Sticking to the national plan means that we ensure that the resources sector stays on track and continues doing what it’s been doing now for over a year in terms of the COVID response—dealing with the pandemic and delivering for our economy. The resources sector is forecast to earn some $334 billion for this country this financial year. Tania Constable, the CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, has stated that minerals exploration investment has increased 14 per cent to $3.2 billion in 2020-21. That is the highest spending since the peak of the mining boom in 2012.

Over in the west, we know that there’s been some research commissioned by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy from independent labour market specialists—and I’m not making this up; it is Pit Crew Consulting. That is P-I-T, not P-I-T-T! Pit Crew is in Bundaberg. What they are saying is that there is expected to be a shortfall by some 33,000 workers by 2023. That includes things like geophysicists, geologists, maintenance and specialist engineers, civil engineers and electrical engineers. And, if premiers do not stick to the national plan, how do WA source those resources if they are limited to only their own state? So it is incredibly important that we stick to the national plan and that we continue to deliver for our country.

What we know is that the national plan will help deliver confidence. I come from small business. Business is about confidence—confidence for investment, confidence for coming to our country and confidence for opening additional facilities, including mines. That needs to see us united, and that includes those opposite. They should stop talking down our country, stop talking down our economy, and get in behind the national plan because the national plan will deliver confidence and investment and more jobs and more opportunities right across this country. You cannot continue to fence off the rest of the nation if you need to fill jobs like these and deliver for our country.

Mr Stephen Jones interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Whitlam! It’s just noise. I can’t understand him. Maybe his adviser can pull his mask a bit tighter; that might help!

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