Questions without notice – Mining Industry: Minerals

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Mr CONAGHAN : My question is to the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia. Will the minister inform the House about how the Morrison-McCormack government’s actions in securing our strong mineral export markets are setting the foundation for our continued economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by creating a safer and more secure Australia? And is the minister aware of any alternative approaches?

Mr PITT: Can I thank the honourable member for their question. It’s Minerals Week, and we need to be out there supporting our hardworking men and women in the resources sector, and I’m sure the member for Cowper does.

But why is the minerals sector so important to the member’s electorate and so important to all Australians? How is it that it makes a safer and more secure Australia? Well, the reality is pretty straightforward. In the world of changing technology, as we continue to look at electrification, and whether it’s in defence, new medical applications, smart tech or communications, it is Australia’s resources sector that is providing that feedstock.

Critical minerals, or rare earths, are actually used in defence assets. An F-35 fighter, for example, contains 417 kilos of rare earths, used in targeting, communications and other systems. A destroyer has nearly 2½ tonnes of rare earths. A submarine might have more than four tonnes of rare earths. A smart phone—I’m sure there’s a lot of people in here who use a smart phone—has more than 40 different mined minerals and more than 20 to 40 grams of cobalt.

So the minerals sector is important for all Australians. It is important that we have a strong sector in the resources sector. It’s important that we continue to look for opportunities, particularly for downstream processing.

The Minerals Council has put out a forecast on the increase in demand in the minerals sector, and we expect: things like aluminium, for example, in terms of a processed product, to be up by 45 per cent by 2030; the global demand for nickel to rise by 67 per cent; and, of course, iron ore and all of our other staples to remain strong and continue to employ Australians right across the board—some 260,000 individuals.

We are intending to ensure that that pipeline continues and that we continue to have that employment opportunity. Twenty million dollars in the budget is committed to the Global Resources Strategy and over $200 million for exploring for the future, to ensure we do have that pipeline of new projects and new mines coming on. We intend to ensure—and we have done, through the JMEI, the Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive, a tax incentive—that we are out there, working hard in those regional areas, delivering new opportunities for mines and miners.

But I’m asked about alternatives—and we saw an alternative from those opposite reported today, on their approach to the resources sector. That particular project is likely to deliver some 6,000 jobs into the Northern Territory over the next 20 years. How do those opposite approach it? They have to put it to a vote in their caucus to decide if they support the resources sector. We stand up for our sector unequivocally.

We know that projects like those in Narrabri, like those in the Barossa and like those in Scarborough don’t need to be put to a vote. We support them 100 per cent. (Time expired)

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