Address to the 2017 Australian Minerals Industry Parliamentary Dinner

The Prime Minister, Parliamentarians, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Minerals Council of Australia’s Annual Parliamentary Dinner.

May I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present. 

Prime Minister, thank you for joining us tonight.

We greatly value your continued strong support for our industry that creates prosperity from our mineral wealth for all Australians.  We particularly congratulate you on your government’s decision to support the exploration sector through the Junior Mineral Exploration Tax Credit.  Many of today’s major mining operations have been built on early exploration success by junior explorers, and we applaud your government’s recognition of the importance of this activity to the future of Australia’s mining industry.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 2017 is a year of significant anniversaries in our industry.

Firstly, 2017 marks 25 years since the landmark Mabo decision.

The partnership that has developed between the minerals sector and Indigenous communities on native title over the last quarter century is a major achievement for the nation.

The Indigenous community deserves great credit and respect for their commitment to that co-operative relationship.

I am proud to say that as an industry’s voice, Professor Marcia Langton wrote last month, ‘across the public, private and community sectors, no one has done more to advance a better future and self-determination for indigenous Australians than the mining industry.’

As we mark the anniversary of the Mabo decision, we re-commit to an even deeper, stronger relationship with Indigenous Australia – one where we recognise the importance of our shared values, the significance of our continued conversations, and the value of our increasingly diverse cultural heritage and connection to country.

Secondly, 2017 also marks the 50th anniversary of minerals sector representation in Australia. 

I am delighted to see so many industry leaders with us tonight who have played a critical role in the MCA and its predecessor body, the Australian Mining Industry Council over the last five decades.

Through that time, our industry has weathered the worst of the most recent cyclical downturn. But the mining industry’s contribution to the Australian way of life still goes understated.

In the year to June 30, resources exports hit $200 billion for the first time, up 28 per cent on the previous year. 

And while this increase reflects the increase in production output generated by the recent investment in growth, it is not just about our two most important exports, coal and iron ore. 

It is also about the role our industry can play in delivering the essential elements to meet the world’s growing appetite for energy and new technologies – a role which we have played for over 200 years, and we expect to play into the future. 

This year also marks 200 years since British economist David Ricardo first articulated the concept of comparative advantage.

Ricardo’s key insight was that all countries will be better off by specialising in what they do best and trading with one another.

Australia has a key comparative advantage in its minerals wealth and production.  It has also built a comparative advantage in mining equipment, technology and services.

This is a function of having the combination of high quality resources together with access to a high quality workforce, an innovative culture, stable policy settings and an appetite for risk.

We must continue to nurture that comparative advantage and use it to grow our economic and global contribution. 

In his recent study for Deloitte, Professor Ian Harper demonstrated the full scale and reach of our sector – including both mining and the technology, engineering and services sector that supports it. 

The study found that mining and mining services now account for 15 per cent of the national economy, employing 1.1 million Australians. 

This contribution also reflects the extensive growth in our international trade relationships – taking our place in the Asian region as a significant economic powerhouse. 

However ladies and gentlemen, there remain plenty of challenges ahead to protect and sustain our comparative advantage.

Over the last decade or so we have ceded the economic advantage we had in low energy costs, such that we now have a clear and pressing need to re-establish a reliable national energy system.

Our singular goal must be a more affordable, reliable electricity supply which meets our international commitments and our community’s desire for a lower environmental footprint.  We cannot accept current high prices and grid instability as the new normal, nor can we walk away from our community’s expectations of the role we have to play in reducing global emissions.

With the increasing use of new low emissions technologies, the minerals industry can play a very significant part in addressing our current energy crisis. 

After all, we have abundant resources of high quality coal which can deliver clean, affordable and reliable energy through High Efficiency, Low Emissions coal fired power stations both here in Australia and overseas.  We are also key to a clean energy future – through the production of the essential elements that make renewable power and new battery technology possible. Elements such as lithium, cobalt and graphite, as well as copper, nickel, aluminium and steel which are fundamental to the power sector.

So there is no doubt that the minerals industry is critical to a reliable, low cost and low emissions energy future. And it is essential that we continue to play to our strengths and maximise our comparative advantage.

To do so, ladies and gentlemen, we must also reform our GST Distribution arrangements.

It is clear that existing arrangements are broken – they fundamentally contradict our comparative advantage.  

The current system penalises states that promote resources development.  And it rewards those states who prohibit exploration without strong factual evidence or because it is politically fashionable to do so.

A new approach is needed and we commend you Prime Minister for your reference to the Productivity Commission. Our GST distribution system must have a pro-growth orientation if we are to continue to enjoy the benefits that our mineral wealth has provided.

Prime Minister, on this issue, we provide an unequivocal commitment to you this evening. 

The minerals industry will support pragmatic and practical policy reform with real vigour and determination that ensure no state is worse off, and provides all states with the incentive to make the most of their resource endowment policy that stimulates investment and economic growth and contributes to Australia’s sustainable economic future.

Before I close, I would like to make one final point.

After 26 years of unbroken economic growth, there is an increasing but mistaken temptation to believe that this trend will continue without the ongoing commitment that it takes to maintain it.

As a nation, we have always been hard working and innovative risk takers that have punched above our weight on the global stage. 

But we must continue to earn our right to be at the table, to fulfil our potential and to contribute to the development of our region and a sustainable global future.

You can be assured that, for our part, the mining industry is resolutely committed to this task.  

Prime Minister – I look forward to hearing you share your vision for our industry – one that even as we speak is working twenty four hours a day, seven days a week to create value for our communities, our international partners and our nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull to address this annual Parliamentary Dinner.


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