Questions without notice – Resources Sector

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Mr O’DOWD (FlynnDeputy Nationals Whip) (14:59): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Water. Will the minister inform the House how the Morrison government is positioning Australia as a leading supplier of critical minerals and rare earth elements to meet the growing global demand for the new energy technologies required in a modern economy? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches?

Mr PITT (HinklerMinister for Resources and Water) (14:59): I thank the honourable member for Flynn for his question. They make it big in Flynn! They’ve got big ports, big ships, big trains and big support for his constituents from the member for Flynn. When we look at critical minerals, we have big opportunities for this country. We are supporting the critical minerals sector as it develops, and for very good reason.

In the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, part of the current Leader of the House’s position, we supported eight critical minerals projects as part of the first round of that $1.3 billion commitment we have made. One of those is Core Lithium. Core Lithium received $6 million. It is up in the Middle Arm industrial precinct, in Darwin Harbour, up in the Northern Territory. Their proposal is for a pilot plan to process ore into battery grade lithium hydroxide. Why is this important? Because the IP for this is held very tightly. We want to develop these opportunities. As the member for Flynn would know, we’re very good at putting things onto boats and sending them to other countries to make sure they can keep their lights on. But we’re also good at making sure we can manufacture products in this country.

There is a big opportunity in critical minerals. Industry has forecast the global lithium ion battery market could reach $400 billion by 2030. We want a big piece of that, but we need to develop that technology and that support—and there is competition, because other people want that piece of the pie too. There are opportunities right across the country, whether that is regional hubs, in places like Gladstone in the member for Flynn’s electorate, or whether it’s up in Rockhampton, in the member for Capricornia’s electorate, or in Mackay, in the member for Dawson’s electorate—particularly with the support for gas.

I’m asked about alternatives. There are alternatives. There are other positions that those opposite tend to take on occasion. Quite simply, we support this sector. On this side of the House we support the sector, and our support is obvious and clear and strong and public. In fact, when we go to a resources sector mine—I go with the Prime Minister. We showed up in the far north earlier in the year. Admittedly we got stuck in the lift—everybody knew about that!—but we got out of the lift. We are supporting the sector, the workers, the individuals who are driving the economy in this country. In fact, on recent accounts there are 279,000 jobs in the resources sector now—incredibly strong. The opposition, it’s reported, have secret visit to mines. We do not make a secret about our support. I will be philosophical, briefly: if a tree falls in a forest and no-one is there to hear it, did it make a sound? If the Leader of the Opposition went on a secret visit to a coalmine and no-one knew about it, did he really go?

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