Bill's Speeches

MINERALS COUNCIL LUNCH - CANBERRA - WEDNESDAY, 13 FEBRUARY 2019

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Good afternoon everybody.
 
Apologies in advance - Question Time is at two o'clock and whilst you don’t tend to get many answers, I still need to attend.
 
Now I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land upon which we meet, I pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.
 
And in doing that, I should actually acknowledge a lot of the leadership that many of the big mining companies are doing in partnership with Aboriginal people, providing jobs and training and infrastructure to remote parts of Australia. It's a great, great success story in many cases.
 
I should also say thanks for the opportunity to speak at the lunch.
 
I am accompanied here by my Shadow Minister, Jason Clare and both of us have been tutored over the years by Martin Ferguson and Gray Gray amongst others.  
 
I also want to say thank you because when I look at the Australian economy in the last six years, what growth we have is far less to do with government and far more to do with the decisions of mining companies to invest in capital expenditure, to increase the volume of the minerals which are then put on ships and sent to North Asia.
 
There is no doubt in my mind that our growth numbers would be very anaemic indeed without the contribution of mining in the last number of years. So I thank you for what you're doing and the long-term decisions you make.
 
You are important to our national wealth, your industry, you are important to economic growth.  
 
And I recognise that Australian politics is at a bit of a water-shed because one of the most common observations I got across summer was that people are sick of the instability.
 
They want to stop the naked partisanship and just get on with looking after the people, and people want a long-term vision.
 
I care to believe that long-term vision will trump fear. We will find out if I am right in about three months.
 
But I want to use today as an opportunity to focus on the future, the positive.
 
From time to time, people masquerading as leaders in Australian politics tell us to be afraid of the future.
 
I do not share that view.
 
I do not share the view that the future is unknowable, incomparable and too difficult.
 
I understand of course we live in a time of global headwinds, of economic transition, of technology and automation, of changes in our region and transformation.
 
These are big challenges undoubtedly. 
 
But for me, the obligation of good, stable, united government is not to run from the challenges but to build and prepare for it.
 
To create for Australia a new economic security. Encouraging and developing existing sources of prosperity and to find new sources, new high-value industries, new high-skilled jobs, as Vanessa was talking about in her introduction.
 
And for me and for Jason, for my team – mining is central to our future vision of Australia.
 
Now before I came to parliament, I spent decades representing miners - not necessarily the owners of mines but definitely the people who work in them.
 
That was an invaluable education. 
 
I don't pretend to know what you know about mining. But I am sure and confident that compared to most Members of Parliament on either side of politics, I've been to more underground mines and open-cuts and I've been to diesel workshops and I've been to - I probably know more individual miners.
 
From  Tom Price to Newman, to the big Bauxite mines of Aloca, down south of Perth, Huntly and Wagerup. Across to Kalgoorlie, the goldfields, and then the Northern Territory from MacArthur River right up to the operations they have at Gove. To go underground at George Fisher to see what happens there, it's a privilege. To Cadia, to other goldmines and Cobar in western New South Wales. Of course, to Stawell and Ballarat.                              
                           
There's the extractive industries of course. I don't know how much you consider them as separate organisations, your demarcations are confusing sometimes.
 
And of course, Tasmania - Beaconsfield, the Savage River, Queenstown.
 
I feel comfortable in this room because I appreciate not only the value of what you do, but I've seen it firsthand. I've seen the jobs that are created.
 
I see the value you have not just on a spreadsheet, but in terms of livelihoods and rural communities.
 
I know the value of what can happen in a productive workplace.
 
I've seen what happens when there isn't.
 
I've seen what happens when there is poor safety.
 
I've seen the importance of making sure that the jobs are continuing, like we see in the coal facilities.
 
I've seen underground when Pasminco had Broken Hill.
 
I've seen the longevity that can be delivered in mining and the resilient communities which are built upon it.
 
Mining is irreplaceable to Australia's economic success.
 
And I say that not as an alternative-Prime Minister, I say that as someone who literally has seen what you do.
 
It is something that we can do better than anywhere else in the world.
 
But indeed, my association with mining actually goes back a little further. My first boat person ancestor - other than the convicts - was an illegal arrival, John O’Shea.
 
He jumped ship in 1851 in the Port of Melbourne. He wanted to be a gold miner. I just think he was an unsuccessful gold miner. He set up a butcher shop but that’s not really for today, but that works at the Meat Council.
 
But when you think about the stories though, it leads to perhaps the bigger story.
 
Charles Rasp - many of you would know who he was, a humble boundary rider at the Mount Gipps Station. He saw the mineral promise that became Broken Hill.
 
Joining forces with local contractors, they sunk a small shaft.
 
The early results were not promising, but persistence paid off. 
 
A syndicate of seven took out leases covering the whole of the Broken Hill.
 
That’s the story of BHP.
 
There was a German migrant who came to Australia to better his health.
 
Initially trained as a chemist, ended working in the outback, an eye for minerals, an understanding of how to prospect.
 
A lot of variables falling in to place.
 
It's the same kind of thing that happened when Paddy Hannan’s horse threw a shoe.
 
He stumbled into the bush at a place called Kalgoorlie, and came across a field of gold nuggets across the ground.
 
I don't know why my ancestors didn't go to Kalgoorlie.
 
Listen, I talk about this because it is part of Australian folklore. I also think it appeals a little bit in us still even now.
 
But the point is, that the true story of mining in Australia isn’t one of luck.
 
And the future of your businesses, the future of Australian mining and the future of our national economy will not be secured by luck.
 
I spoke before, I alluded briefly to some of the range of massive challenges occurring in the world.
 
And these challenges I submit to you today, demand a lot more from government than complacency dressed-up as caution.
 
It requires more than an economic policy of sitting back and hoping that something turns up. 
 
We have to build for the future, to invest in our next wave of prosperity, and to help you find and uncover the new deposits, the new mines, the wealth and jobs of the future.  
 
It is interesting that right now at the moment, 80 per cent of Australia’s current mineral production is from mines discovered prior to 1980.
We have not had a new Tier 1 deposit – those geological freaks of nature like Broken Hill, since 2005.
 
Yet, the rest of the world is discovering them at a rate of three a year.
 
I'm concerned that our share of global exploration spending has halved in the past two decades.
 
Our share of gold production is down from 13 to 8 per cent.
 
The challenge that too many of our 71 gold mines will close over the next two decades. 
 
Nickle has halved to less than 10 per cent.
 
The Resources 2030 Taskforce noted the urgent need to replenish the pipeline of new projects
 
That’s because, as you understand better than anyone, it can take decades to turn a discovery into an exporting mine.
 
And because the demand for critical commodities of the future is booming.
 
We are in the top five holders of 14 out of 35 of these critical commodities which will power the economies of the future - which is enviable. 
 
We produce 10 of the 16 commodities needed for the manufacture of solar panels.
 
We hold the largest reserves of lithium.
 
We mine every commodity required to build smart phones and the battery and storage technology of the future.  
 
But when it comes to mineral wealth, two thirds of our country remain unexplored.
 
Covered by sand or saltwater lakes, inaccessible to legacy technology.
 
Now, I spoke about luck before. The real stroke of luck in the stories of Kalgoorlie and Broken Hill was that the deposits were on the surface or close to the surface.
 
If they’d been a few hundred metres below the surface they might still be there, unexplored and untapped. 
 
Now thanks to pioneering work by the industry, the CSIRO, the Academy of Australian Sciences and Geoscience Australia, we now know that we can explore much more deeply below the surface than we could in the past with past technology.
 
This project, known as the UNCOVER initiative, it is world leading.
 
And given that two-thirds of our nation remains unexplored and the two thirds of the deposits undiscovered, it is a tipping point for the nation.  
 
This is why I've chosen today to outline Labor’s Plan for Future Mines and Mining Jobs.
 
Today, Jason and I advise you of our plan to harness the full force of 21st century Australian skills and science to establish an underground map of where our future mines should be.
 
Mines that will export the commodities of the future.
 
Mines that will deliver the jobs of the future.
 
So if we are elected as the next government of Australia, Labor will establish an Australian Future Mines Centre.
 
An Australian Future Mines Centre to co-ordinate exploration work, lead scientific research, develop the technology necessary to explore under deep cover.
 
The centre will generate the knowledge and know-how to lift the success rate of minerals exploration possibly back to the rates and levels we enjoyed 30 and 40 years ago.
 
We will work with industry, the Australian Academy of Science, the CSIRO, and Geoscience Australia on the design of the centre.
 
We can, through our prudential budgeting commit $23 million in funding through the Australian Research Council's Special Research Initiative to make it a reality - and we can do that straight away upon getting elected. 
 
We don't have time to waste in this country. 
 
Where possible, we will seek co-funding from industry to kick-start collaboration across the sector in these areas which will give Australian mining an edge in the future.
 
Ideas like big-data analytics, machine learning, automation systems.
 
This technology will allow us to cost-effectively map the deposits of the two-thirds of Australia that remain unexplored.
 
These disruptive technologies are the promise of the future.
 
But if we want to convert these new technologies into new jobs, we have to get the detail right. 
 
That’s why as part of the plan we will deliver a strategy for data and a skills road map, as was said earlier.
 
Holding the right data and turning it into the right information is the modern equivalent of holding the right to prospect, it’s just as valuable.
 
And because of the challenges of exploring deep underground, it will take multiple surveys using different technology to increase confidence of finding that next big deposit.
 
In many respects only government can do this co-ordination work, in partnership with industry.
 
Delivering the first cut of pre-commercial exploration data is an appropriate role for government.
 
Your industry invests a lot in Australia. It is only reasonable some of that investment is returned in modest research assistance, to provide this opportunity. 
 
Now I do acknowledge the important work that is underway with Geoscience Australia in the exploring for the future program.
 
But it isn't just about picking the right targets is it.
 
It’s about making sure that Australians are getting the jobs in the future, and mining the commodities of the future.
 
We’ve got to get our people the right skills and qualifications not just to be part of this, but to be driving it.
 
That’s why, I and my Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek, we are launching a once-in-a-generation review of the post-secondary education system.
 
To make sure the next generation of Australians are getting the right skills and knowledge and information and problem solving capacities to compete and win in the new economy. 
 
We will uncap university places, to ensure an extra 200,000 Australians have the opportunity to get a degree.

And in our first three years in government alone – we're going to pay the upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE places. 
 
I think it is a travesty that Australia in the last five years, the number of apprenticeships in this country has declined from about 420,000 to 280,000. 
 
We need tradespeople of the future to replace our ageing trades workforce. 
 
But one number in particular I found when I talk to mining companies and I visit mines, which has me very deeply concerned and perplexed, is that the number of people enrolled to study mining engineering at one university has plummeted from 117 in 2013 to just 5 in 2017. 
 
As you would have picked up, I'm a bit of a student of history, and whilst it's not an absolute guarantee of the future, it's a useful predictor. 
 
And I'm very conscious of the great traditions of our mining schools of Australia, but we need to replenish it.
 
I want to see more Australians studying engineering but in particular, and I want to see existing engineers have the opportunity to re-train in mining engineering.

But for a mining superpower which we are, the fact that we are training so few mining engineers is baffling.

So today I am announcing a $2 million program, the government will pay 100 scholarships to enrol in mining engineering at Australian universities.

We will encourage people to become mining engineers.
You'll do the rest with them, I have no doubt about that. But I accept that there is a market failure and we are not training enough mining engineers. 
We will help encourage more people, more young Australians to pursue a career in your industry and provide support for existing experienced engineers to diversify, re-skill and re-train in mining engineering.
 
And consistent with Labor’s commitment to equality for women in this country, half of these scholarships will be made available for women to go into mining engineering.

I don't pretend this is going to solve all the skills shortages in the future but we need to do something. 

We cannot have our mining schools not training mining engineers, and I am absolutely focused on solving that problem and creating a pipeline of mining engineers, starting in our very first term.
 
Now just to make sure as you have access to smart and skilled workforce, the human capital, we also want to award you for investing in your own productivity.
 
So just a couple other points on what we're offering in terms of the taxation space, so that you can understand when you hear all the shoutyness of federal politics. 

I just want you to hear this. We have an Australian Investment Guarantee policy - this will help you and reward you for investing in your own productivity.
 
We will allow any business upon election, to immediately deduct an additional 20 per cent of a new eligible asset worth more than $20,000.
So look at any depreciation standard you've got, add 20 per cent immediately on top of it if the item is currently assessable for depreciation, and it's above $20,000. 

This is linking valuable taxpayer concession to rewarding you for future investment. 
It will mean lower taxes when you purchase your plant and equipment,  when you invest in intellectual property to develop smarter and more efficient ways to run your businesses.
 
And when it comes to critical commodities – the minerals like lithium and cobalt. These are non-bulk commodities that will require new workforces to mine them in scale.
So that's their vision, it's going to be their ingenuity, their collaboration which will deliver the innovation which sets, and has traditionally set Australian mining apart.
That’s why our Future Mines Centre is so important – to co-ordinate and plan the work needed.
 
If we get this right and we reasonably should, it will add a whole new dimension to one our biggest exports – mining engineering, technology and services – METS.
 
METS accounts for almost 10 per cent of our total exports.
 
Six out of every 10 lines of code in the global mining industry are written in Australia.

This is a marvellous success which not enough Australians are aware of.

I am ambitious for this country to be a leader in the world, not the best tax deduction scheme for your imputation credits when you haven't paid income tax. 
 
I am ambitious for us to be the best at innovation and export. 

I am ambitious for us to be a world leader when it comes to harnessing technology and science for deep underground exploration.
I want us to be a world leader in upstream integration, in the minerals we mine in the products of the future.
That’s why, as part of a future White Paper process, we want to create a stronger, more productive link between the Australian resources sector and the Australian manufacturing sector.
See for me, it’s not enough to say that “we produce every metal needed to make the batteries of the future.”
Because we’ve also got the scientists to design and refine the battery and storage technology of the future.
 
And we have the skilled workforce to build and manufacture that technology here in Australia.
 
We are very committed to moving our people up the value chain. 
 
Instead of shipping the minerals and materials overseas and buying them back at 30 to 40 times the price, we should do more of the mining and the building here in Australia.
 
Time and time again, previous generations have missed the opportunity to invest in Australian industry.
 
Time and time again, the moment has passed Australia by.

It's a little known fact that in 1945 we were the fifth largest manufacturer of aeroplanes in the world. 

Now we wouldn't think we were capable of doing that, we missed that opportunity - Sweden, Brazil and others decided to go there. 
So we have looked at other countries I think and wistfully said: 
We could have done that. We could have been part of that.

How did that chance slip through our fingers? 

Well this time, I am determined to get it right.
I understand that what that requires is stable politics. My side of politics has been stable for the best part of six years. 
My Shadow Ministers have largely been in the same portfolios for that time - except for retirement. 

I understand that there are people contemplating voting differently to what they have in the past because they are just over the instability - we will make that pledge.
 
But today what I endeavour to do is show this audience the respect of thinking through what is the useful collaboration and role for government.
 
I make it very clear that the next election - both sides of politics have the same taxation policies in terms of corporate tax rates.
I make it very clear that diesel fuel excise, despite what the Greens say, is not on our list. 

I make it very clear that we have an Australian Investment Guarantee.
 
But more than even our taxation policy which is stable, I put to you that the challenge is people, it's always people in the end.
 
I'll never forget the gift of being involved in the Beaconsfield rescue, I'll never forget the gift of being in the big trucks of the Baulksite miners as they move around those mines.
 
I'll never forget the gift of going underground, be it at Broken Hill or visiting the open cuts of Cadia or indeed at Mount Isa. 
 
I understand that at the end of the day your businesses are people businesses. We want to invest in their skills but I also think that we can help you with the future exploration which keeps Australia on top as a mining powerhouse.

And again, I would thank you for what you've done to keep the Australian economy afloat in particular over recent years.
 
Thank you and have a lovely day.


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