Bill's Speeches

Leadership Matters










Thank you for inviting me and to our generous hosts, it’s a great pleasure to be here in Perth.

I particularly thank The West Australian, Murdoch University, Woodside and Channel Seven.

I don’t get here often enough and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to address such a distinguished and accomplished audience.

This is my second visit to WA as Labor Leader – and I intend to make many more.

Both the nation and the party I lead will only flourish if we know, respond to and contribute to the challenges and opportunities of Western Australia.

Without proper representation from Labor, you run the real risk of your support being taken for granted.

Standing up for Western Australia will be a key priority for me as Labor Leader, so I look forward to seeing more of you in the year ahead – and listening to your ideas.

Perth is unique among Australian cities.

Perth benefits from tremendous export wealth of its hinterland, from sheep and cattle farming, and from broad-acre cropping.

This year, Australia’s wheat production will increase by 17 per cent to 26.2 million tonnes.
An increase underpinned by a bumper harvest in Western Australia of more than 14 million tonnes.

My experience in the wheat belt, from Lake Grace to Moora, has given me an acute appreciation of how hard farmers have it in this tough country – so I am pleased that it has been a good year.

Wheat exports account for nearly 10 per cent of Australia’s entire agricultural exports.

National wheat exports are worth nearly $50 billion – and Western Australia is responsible for over a third of wheat exports.

Earlier this month, the Western Australia based Co-operative Bulk Handling Group exported the largest ever grain shipment, taking 78,000 tonnes of feed barley to Saudi Arabia.

Western Australia is also a leading exporter in education, services, design and, of course, mining.

And it’s mining and hydrocarbons that I want to focus on today. I believe in mining, and I want mining to prosper.

Australians want mining to be successful – and I want Labor to foster that success.

Mining, the technology and science of sophisticated minerals processing, petroleum and hydrocarbons are a key element in the regeneration of 21st Century Australia.

I acknowledge that the previous Government didn’t always get it right in this area.

The extent of our dialogue did not match the size of the reform.

This is not a mistake I intend to repeat.

But Labor was also well served by two fine Ministers in Martin Ferguson and Gary Gray.

And we have a proud record of encouraging investment in mining during our time in office – and indeed our history in Western Australia.

Hundreds of billions of dollars in new investment flowed into this state from investors during the Labor Government – and the nation reaped the benefits.

Like you, I believe in mining, and I want it to succeed.

When our mining sector thrives:

-       The kids of tomorrow have an exciting profession

-       High-skill, well remunerated jobs are given life

-       Aboriginal Australians enjoy rewarding work (and hope) in their own communities

-       Innovation, research and development are pioneered by companies keen to find a competitive edge.

-       Superannuation funds, and the millions of Australians who have trusted their retirement savings to them, benefit from strong dividends.

-       Developments benefit and look after their local communities

-       And State and Federal Governments can fund the best possible services and infrastructure with the increased revenue that a thriving mining industry delivers.

Today, Perth is the iron ore capital of the world.

May there be no limit to our ambition.

I want it to be the mining capital of the world.

The iron ore, nickel, copper, LNG and floating LNG capital.

The mining technology capital of the world.

I believe both the quantity and quality of Australia’s natural gas reserves can help us become a world resources capital.

To make Perth what Houston or Aberdeen are in oil and gas.

We know that this is possible.

Because we’ve seen this kind of transformation before.

50 years ago, in The Lucky Country, Donald Horne described Perth as a city that:

‘works as hard as it can, but takes it a bit easy when the sun flares’.

Today it is the very definition of new industry.

A place of innovation and science and the search for the new.

In 1967, the year I was born, Western Australia exported less than 10 million tonnes of iron ore a year.

By 2018 we will export over 800 million tonnes of iron ore.

May there be no limit to the future prospects of our mining, infrastructure and gas sectors.

There is a world of opportunity waiting for us across Asian nations; India, Indonesia, Thailand, Mongolia.

And there is no way that China’s demand for our natural resources, our pioneering innovation and our value-adding metallurgy has run its course.

To put the China growth in perspective, Chicago took 180 years to reach its current size, New York took 400 years.

But consider this: today, there are 170 cities in China that are home to more than a million people.

China will grow new cities the size of Chicago and New York at a pace previously unimagined in human history.

Today only four: Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are currently classified as ‘first tier’ mega cities.

It was their rapid expansion, development and urbanisation that fuelled the record levels of Chinese demand for resources in the last decade.

Imagine if you will, the next 50 cities in China (they are often called the ‘China50’) as an independent country.

This country of 630 million people, would be the world’s fifth largest economy.

This China50 is already a US $2.9 trillion economy.

It’s only just beginning.

And it’s home to the world’s ten fastest-growing cities.

The China50 is projected to account for 12 per cent of global economic growth this decade, and 6 per cent of all global output by 2020.

Like Perth in 1829, the future growth and opportunities are difficult to conceive.

But the opportunities for our nation and the contribution of this state will make history if we chose.

As these 50 cities develop, and their semi-rural outskirts urbanise, the demand for iron ore, copper and nickel will form the foundation for a new wave of Australian mining prosperity.

And in helping the China50 to emerge and prosper, Australian mining will be supporting the creation of a large segment of the new Asian middle class. A hopeful pioneering group aspiring for a quality life.

A new group of consumers with purchasing power and a keen interest in Australian services and products.

Now as vital as the opportunities offered by China’s modern class are, they are not the whole picture.

That’s why I was pleased to see the Western Australian Government visit Africa recently.

Africa offers Australian mining companies a different, but no less exciting, set of opportunities.

Just as mining operations in the eastern states already know to look across the Nullarbor for best practice.

More and more operations in South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana are looking across the Indian Ocean.

Companies with their headquarters in Perth are helping drive a smarter and safer, more efficient African mining industry.

These companies pay their workers a living wage.

They’re building houses and roads.

They’re bringing electricity and a reliable supply of clean water to communities that have always seen these basic amenities as luxuries.

They are building a modern future.

They’re demonstrating that our mining industry can also export its expertise, its world-class skills and knowledge.

And they are building the foundation for a new wave of mining wealth for Australia.

That’s why I want to congratulate the West Australian Government for having the foresight to attend INDABA.

The visit recognises the importance of Africa, and the economic opportunities it holds for Australian industry.

So it is always good to see the West embracing the advantages of their state’s unique place on our continent.

I’m pleased that Mark McGowan can be here today.

Because I know Mark has a deep belief in Western Australia’s potential – and a strong vision for its future.  He will be a great Premier of Western Australia.

I talked earlier about wanting all mining companies and the services sector, the contractors, engineers, software designers and geologists – big and small – to succeed.

This means continuing Labor’s record level of infrastructure investment, delivering the roads, rail and ports that speed the export process and boost productivity.

Another key element of that will be striking the right balance in workplace relations.

This area can sometimes be troublesome, and there has been a shortage of trust on both sides, particularly in east coast coal mining.

But too often discussion of workplace relations in the mining industry is reduced to an argument about whether employee wages are too high.

Or the flawed notion that passing a law in Canberra will drive productivity growth in an individual enterprise.

This isn’t about cutting wages.

It’s about productivity.

I’ve never met a CEO who begrudges a good wage to the truck driver or shovel operator who can produce a higher tonnage in working a shift across good quality ore.

I’ve never met a CEO who wants their geotech underpaid compared to the competition.

Leadership in the workplace is when the focus is on employee engagement – and on getting the best from the workforce.

I want middle management, and the shopfloor, to be given new leadership skills, to drive better workplace activity.

I want your employees to want to come to work – and to go home satisfied with the value of their efforts.

Under my leadership, Labor’s focus will always be on getting the best possible outcome for employers, employees - and investors.

Labor too must be persistent and consistent in helping reduce red and green tape – in a responsible, not reckless, way.

I appreciate we want business  - the private sector, the wealth creators in our society – to be able to spend more time making money and less delayed by onerous form-filling.

All of this will generate a boost to productivity, and lower our cost base.

A thriving mining sector means greater support for innovation, science and research.

This is something about which I am passionate, to the extent that I am responsible for the Shadow Science portfolio myself.

I believe the science race, the race for the jobs of the future, has started. A race to the top.

But if Australia is not careful we will be stuck on the blocks.

History shows Australia can either get smarter or get poorer – we can rise to the top, or sink to the bottom.

I don’t subscribe to the view that it is the role of government to replace private investment in innovation, or crowd it out.

But government can play an important role in covering investor risk, helping to create a climate of confidence and risk-taking that will encourage entrepreneurs to pursue the breakthroughs that will define this century.

And I think governments, and other businesses, can learn a lot from the way the mining industry encourages – and employs – innovation.

Because innovation in mining isn’t just about finding faster ways to dig things out of the ground.

It’s about pioneering new technologies, breakthroughs and specialist science to mineral processing and metallurgy, developing world class methods of transportation, improving workforce skills and the best site safety in the world. A place everyone wants to work.

Innovative resource companies aim to be a primary and a secondary industry.

They are always looking for ways to value-add through sophisticated mineral processing and metallurgy.

They constantly update and evaluate their training methods to ensure their employees are learning new skills that boost their productivity.

They see workplace safety as both a moral obligation and as a key driver of productivity.

And mining also benefits from innovation in other industry – especially secondary industries like manufacturing.

The best example of this is a connection drawn by Sam Walsh, the CEO of Rio Tinto between his company and the automotive industry.

Sam has spoken about ‘shamelessly lifting’ the car industry’s business improvement model and adopting their

‘intense, laser-like focus on value and efficiency’

This comes from the recognition that every business is driven by the same question.

They all want to know how they get the maximum benefit from their time, their labour, their workforce skills, their energy consumption, their resources and their money.
This thinking is reinforced by data that shows the overwhelming factor that underwrote the success of the top 100 companies was their focus.

By this, I mean that 97 of Australia’s 100 most profitable businesses operated in only one defined class of industry.

21 of these 100 were in manufacturing.

Proof positive that Australian business can succeed in any field – and that companies in every industry can argue a case for government support, in the right circumstances.

Because mining companies are prepared to generously reward good ideas, they provide us with concrete examples of the commercial benefits of research and development.

Take the LANDTEM technology developed by CSIRO and led by the remarkable Dr Cathy Foley.

An innovation that has helped unearth $6 billion dollars in mineral deposits

It is Australian technology that would be familiar to many in this room - a portable exploration tool that uses magnetic sensors to differentiate the ore from other conductive material.

Some of you use this technology – and some of you co-invested in its discovery.

The underpinning technology has been applied to industries as diverse as mineral exploration, oceanography, security and defence.

In the past eight years, ten LANDTEM systems have been built and deployed successfully on four continents.

LANDTEM’s development is a great example of science teams and the private sector collaborating to deliver new technologies to multiple industry sectors.

And an illustration of the great potential of Perth to act as a home for research and an export base for innovative technology.

We’re seeing this surge in science already.

The technology park in Kensington is now home to the Pawsey supercomputing centre.

A project funded by Federal and State Governments, the CSIRO and four universities.

The purpose-built facility that will play a crucial role in one of the most ambitious projects in Australian scientific history.

The world’s largest radio telescope: the Square Kilometre Array.

This project will be co-located in South Africa and Australia – with its headquarters in London, with a further 17 countries playing a role in gathering information on our universe.

To give you a sense of the scale of what we are talking about, if you were to sit down with the intention of listening back to a single day’s worth of data collected by the Square Kilometre Array – it would take you two million years.

But with supercomputers – and the new optical fibre link Labor built between Geraldton and Perth - we can sift through these vast quantities of information and unlock that most fundamental of mysteries: the origins of our universe.

For thousands of years, humanity has looked up at the boundless expanse of space and wondered how it all began.

The Square Kilometre Array will help us find the answers.

In all these examples, we see the wisdom of that great Western Australia Member of Parliament, and possibly our greatest
Prime Minister, John Curtin, who said:

“The pursuit of knowledge is far more important than even knowledge itself.”

This why I believe in mining, and why I want it to succeed.

Because the mining industry is not just about sustainably developing parts (with better and better technology) of the vast long term, high quality resources buried in the earth, especially in Australia.

It’s about drawing on Australia’s greatest natural resource – the genius and creativity of our people.

Driving us to be a smarter, more productive and more prosperous nation.

Driving us in a race to the top, not the bottom.

When mining succeeds, Australia succeeds.

And when Western Australia succeeds, Australia succeeds.

And that is the goal that we should all share, and strive for.