Tuesday, 18 June 2024



18 June 2024


Good morning everyone.

Thank you to Claudia Brumme-Smith, and Townsville Enterprise, for inviting me to speak on behalf of the Coalition today.

I acknowledge Scott Stewart, the State Minister, and Senator Anthony Chisolm, a fellow Queensland Senator.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here today discussing an issue close to my heart – the future of mining in Australia.

Today’s theme is ‘Secure the Future’, and to do that, we must learn from our past.

Australia has a long and proud history of mining.

From the first coal exports in 1799, to the gold rushes of the eighteen fifties, and the iron ore giants of the nineteen sixties.

Australia is incredibly efficient at the important work of growing high quality food, but it is mining that brought us into the modern era.

We have had generations of wealth and investment generated thanks to our resources industry.

Investment by large businesses into contractors, small businesses and thousands of Australian workers and families.

Millions of Australians employed, billions upon billions of dollars invested, the accomplishment of powering the globe with our coal and gas, building steel with iron ore, and the mining of copper, silver, lead and zinc in Mt Isa alone.

There has been a long history of bi-partisanship on government policy relating to our resources industry.

Governments have known that if it were not for the success of our resources industry, and the taxes and royalties they pay we would not be able to afford Medicare, or the NDIS, or support our incredibly high standard of public education and public health. But that income stream is threatened.

Foundation of Regional Australia, and Risks to Investment

I’ve recently been re-reading the story of Mt Isa and my grandfather, Sir George Fisher.

And as I have been reading through his life, I have been struck by the foundational changes that mining has delivered for our regions.

Projects that took risk to make investments that were not safe or secure, but had a seismic impact on our country’s prosperity.

Projects that continue to bring significant benefits to the country.

I fear that initiative is being lost for these reasons:

Increasingly risk-averse finance.

Expensive and difficult-to-access insurance.

Anti-investment policy agendas, such as:

  • the safeguards mechanism;
  • the recent introduction of financial reporting legislation including Scope 3;
  • gas market interventions;
  • damaging industrial relations policies, and
  • EPBC Act changes.

International investors are losing faith in the stability of our policy system.

Competition is increasing from South America, Alaska and Indonesia as they present as safer investment options.

The sector that has delivered budget surpluses, paid the bills and literally built the country is the sector which has suffered the most.

Economic Impact

There are some key numbers I want to highlight.

Over $40 billion in wages paid directly to Australian workers last year by the mining sector.

Over 40 per cent of corporate tax was paid by the mining sector.

Australia’s three largest exports remain coal, iron ore and gas. They make up over 60 per cent of our national exports, generating $357 billion in export earnings.

Over $90 billion in royalties and taxes paid to Government.

And of course, over 1.1 million Australians in work thanks to the resources industry.

This is no small feat. The reason I can talk about these amazing figures is because investments have been made over generations.

Contributions like these do not appear overnight, and we can thank the vision of our forebears for delivering this prosperity for us all today.

Let’s look more locally.

Mining supports over 30,000 jobs in Queensland’s North, Far North, and North West according to the Queensland Resources Council.

And helped generate over $5 billion in gross regional product.

I am incredibly proud of the impact that your industry has made to Queenslanders and Australians.

But we need to make sure that this message is being clearly articulated to Australians – particularly the risk to future services and jobs if mining investment gets too hard.

In order to effectively combat the misinformation that some groups spread, we must ensure that we continue to educate the public properly on the truly epic contribution mining has delivered.

Social License

Queensland provides a great case study of how mining can work with the community.

Our booming coal industry, the groundbreaking Gas Fields Commission, and the expansion of hard-rock mining into critical minerals.

Queensland knows how to get mining done right.

And we know how to make sure mining and agriculture work together.

I think about the towns of Roma, Chinchilla and Condamine, how gas extraction has seen those communities boom, young people educated and choosing to return.

I wish the same for Boulia, Bedourie and Birdsville.

But instead of celebrating the success of gas and mining extraction in other places, we see huge parts of Queensland being locked up from that same sort of prosperity.

Queenslanders can be proud of how we have seen these two great industries work together to continue delivering jobs, budget surpluses, and export earnings for decades.

Future demand for our minerals

But hope is not lost yet!

The success we have reaped over the last century can be replicated, as demand for Australia’s mineral and energy resources continues to grow in the coming years.

Australia has a strong history of stable mining policy, an able and willing workforce, and the natural endowment to benefit from this future demand.

In the fast-growing critical minerals industry, and in our traditional resources of coal, gas and iron ore.

But we must ensure our policies are not driven by the ‘renewables only’ blinkers.

As long as there is demand for our traditional commodities and stable affordable baseload energy, Australia should continue to supply our high calorific coal and low carbon gas.

That demand is growing from existing markets like Japan and Korea, but also from emerging economies like Vietnam, Thailand and Bangladesh, all of whom are keen to develop their own country and lift their people out of energy insecurity.

And if we ignore this growing demand, then we drive those nations to seek supply from places like Indonesia, Qatar and Russia, risking geopolitical stability, missing out on taxes, royalties and well paid jobs, and increasing world emissions.

But it is a fact that our coal and gas are produced with less emissions, more ethically, and more safely than in other regions around the world.

And the only thing that happens if a coal mine closes here in Australia, is that a less safe, less environmentally friendly one opens somewhere else.

In the North West Minerals province, and in Far North Queensland there is a wealth of opportunity ready to be mined.

Mineral sands, vanadium and lithium are all new players.

So we must take a balanced approach to our future mineral production.

We must make sure we set our priorities – mining of crucial resources, well paid jobs, taxes and royalties and future wealth generation, against slow and purposeless environmental red tape that will drive investment out of the country.

Last week I spoke to yet another junior miner about the development of an important and in demand mineral.

He described the “funding valley of death” due to an approvals process that is slow, and costly, and slow.

But he can’t attract an investor until he has passed through that process.

Important industrial precincts with necessary common use infrastructure like Greenbushes in Western Australia and Lansdown right here are not prioritised.

Lansdown – 5 years and no projects.

No easy access for explorers and small miners. These are most risky and most arduous but they are getting stuck in approvals. Where is our pipeline of future projects – or are they in Brazil?

Queensland has a resources department that gets it but an environment department that gives no priority to approve in a timely manner.

If we are serious about competing on a world stage then we have to get our house in order.


I’d like to turn to a more controversial topic – uranium!

Although uranium shouldn’t be controversial, considering we have mined it for over a century.

Between Mt Isa and Cloncurry is the old Mary Kathleen uranium mine!

But I understand that there are obvious conclusions drawn from uranium mining, so let me put my case to you.

First, it is clear that the Coalition supports the inclusion of nuclear energy in our future energy mix – Peter Dutton and Ted O’Brien have made that case very strongly.

But we are taking an ‘all of the above’ approach, rather than forcing the country down a path that won’t actually deliver more affordable, or reliable energy.

However, putting aside the nuclear energy debate, it is clear that our allies and strategic partners have a strong need for a stable source of uranium into the future.

Just last month, the United States signed H.R.1042, the Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act.

This means that by July 2028, the US will no longer import Russian enriched uranium.

The US has also committed to a massive ramp-up of their own enrichment capacity, putting billions of dollars aside to invest in securing supply chains for alternate uranium sources.

This leaves Australia in a prime position.

We have some of the best reserves of uranium in the world.

Olympic Dam, in South Australia, is the largest known deposit in the world.

What an amazing advantage Australia has.

Yet state-led ideological prohibitions on exploration and mining are stopping us from properly realising this potential.

And whilst we are seeing the Government talk about strategic partnerships with the US, and the development of critical minerals supply chains, uranium is the big word they are avoiding.

This topic is completely separate from the debate on nuclear energy in Australia’s energy mix, and if the Prime Minister and Energy Minister cannot see past this distinction because of political reasons, that is concerning.

Uranium mining in Australia has had a long and prosperous history.

And I believe that if we are not having these discussions, we may miss a great opportunity.

Northern Australia

Up here in North Queensland, we know how to put in a hard day’s work.

We know what it means to be the powerhouse of the State.

And we know what industries drive the economy down in Brisbane, and in Canberra.

Yet in recent years, we aren’t getting our returns.

Crucial water projects have had their funding cut, delayed, or axed completely over the last two budgets.

Important road and other Infrastructure projects that get pushed into the ether.

And the gradual decline of support for regional towns drives families out of our communities.

This is an issue I feel passionate about, and I won’t stop fighting for the North, and for all of our regional communities.

Because this impacts your businesses as well.

Not enjoying the road, rail and transport connections that other regions do impacts your projects.

Not having secure energy or water sources impacts your projects getting up and running.

And it in turn impacts our whole State.

We have boundless opportunities here in the North.

And we have the ability to get these projects up and running.

But we need continued support and acknowledgement from our Governments that we deserve our fair share.

To help develop the opportunities we have here in Northern Australia, and continue the prosperity we have enjoyed for generations.

Production Tax Credit

I couldn’t speak today without acknowledging the elephant in the room – Labor’s production tax credit.

The Coalition is opposed to this measure, because we know it doesn’t stack up.

It won’t deliver the much needed support for our mining industry, and it won’t reverse the last two years of bad policy from the Government.

I spent a lot of time asking the Resources Department and the Government about the specifics of this program in Canberra a few weeks ago, and they had no answers.

They could not tell me what types of processing would be included in the program.

They could not tell me whether existing projects would be covered in the scheme.

They could not tell me whether junior miners who used larger processing facilities would be eligible for the credit.

And after acknowledging that none of the details had been worked out, they could not tell me how they came to their multi-billion dollar cost in the Budget – so they don’t even know how much it will cost the taxpayer.

But what do we know about this program?

We know that it will not drive down energy costs for mining projects.

We know it will not reverse the damaging industrial relations policies Labor have forced onto the sector.

We know it will not help new miners start production.

We know it will not deliver on common use infrastructure for mining projects.

We know it will not support transport infrastructure to open access to critical regions – like the North West Minerals Province.

And we know it won’t reduce the massive delays in our approvals process.

The Coalition are not opposed to sensible policies that support our mining industry.

But we are opposed to big headlines that don’t actually make a difference to these crucial projects.

And whilst Labor talk a big game, all we need to do is look at their lack of delivery.

Because their last two years of Government is the true test of whether they actually support the resources sector.

Coalition’s Plan for Mining

The Coalition understands the importance of our mining industry, both regionally, for the country, and for the world.

And Peter Dutton has a plan to secure the future of our resources sector, and our country, and get Australia back on track.

First, we will slash approval timeframes in half without compromising on standards, through capping assessment timeframes and properly consulting with industry.

Second, we will accredit the states and territories to provide approvals which meet Commonwealth requirements.

Third, we will defund the Environmental Defenders Office, because it is clear they don’t care about environmental standards, they just want to kill mining projects.

We will also seek to clarify third party challenges under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act.

Fourth, we will bring back ministerial accountability for decisions.

Fifth, we will reintroduce geological bioregional assessments in key regions to develop projects, to reduce duplicative assessments.

Sixth, we will commit to an annual release of offshore acreage for gas exploration and development.

We will also reinstate the National Gas Infrastructure Plan.

These will ensure that we continue to supply affordable, secure gas supply for households, business and our vital manufacturing sector.

Seventh, we will ensure that gas and critical minerals projects are eligible for the Government’s $20 million approvals acceleration process.

We will stop the delays facing our resources sector.

And by supporting our gas sector, we will ensure that households and businesses across the country can access affordable, reliable energy.

Which will also stop Australian manufacturing jobs leaving the country due to gas shortages.

Australia’s Choice

So, within the next year, Queenslanders and Australians will be presented with a choice.

A choice of ideology, that is driving up costs and giving decision making to activists, or a choice of sensible, practical policy.

A choice to support investment in the wealth generating industries of our nation, or a choice to support a Government who drives investment and jobs offshore.

A choice for sensible energy policy that will deliver affordable, reliable energy for homes, businesses and manufacturers.

Or one that sets us down a renewables-only path.

A choice that puts the decision in your hands, and the hands of Australians across the country.

And you need to be clear on what choice you will make.

Whether you will support practical action that delivers for the country.

Or nice sound bites that don’t deliver anything, particularly for North Queensland.

I urge you all to arm your workforce with the information to keep Australia prosperous.

Because it is clear that only one of these options plots a course for a more prosperous Australia.

But, as is the beauty of our democratic system, the choice remains in the hands of the people.

But I know which of these choices will support the future of this great country, and which leaves us struggling to catch up, as the world progresses.

There is a risk of Australia becoming a very principled but very poor country, and this is something we should avoid.

Thank you.