29 June 2023

Address to the 26th World Mining Congress, Brisbane


Mining a better future

Thank you Jillian, for that warm welcome and introduction.

To the CSIRO, the Queensland Government, to all major sponsors and partners –

Thanks for making this event happen –

And thanks especially for your role in bringing the World Mining Congress to Australia for the first time –

In my hometown of Brisbane.

We Queenslanders have a reputation for getting a bit parochial, but this really is the best state in Australia –

And I hope the 3,000 attendees you’ve had here from more than 70 different nations have enjoyed all that it’s got to offer.

Of course, the beauty and value of this part of the world has been known for tens of thousands of years by the First Nations people that have always lived on this country and cared for it.

I acknowledge the Jagera and Turrbal people this morning, their elders, their culture, and their customs –

And look forward to continuing a journey of recognition, listening and respect, towards a Voice to Parliament which will help make a tangible difference to the lives of our people and our communities.

I know today’s the last day of this gathering, and having read over the program, I expect that all of you have gotten a lot out of being here.

You’ve heard some terrific insights from some of the most prominent leaders in your sector –

Had lively discussions on the specific challenges that you’re grappling with –

And looked forward to the opportunities of the defining decade ahead –

One in which the role of mining and resources will only grow more prominent, and more important.

I recognise I’m in a room packed with experts, so I’m not going to try and go over all the detail that has already been explored in depth this week.

Especially when you’ve already spent time with my friend and cabinet colleague Madeleine King –

A passionate advocate for the resources sector –

And somebody who is leading our government’s agenda here.

Instead, as we come towards the end of this congress, I want to do two things.

One, acknowledge the contribution of this sector to our economy and to our country.

And two, zoom out, cast forward and give you our Government’s perspective –

On the importance of mining and resources to our country –

The future contribution it can, and will continue to make –

And how well positioned it is, to drive towards the more sustainable, dynamic economy that we want for all of our people.

Mining and resources in Australia’s economy

At the same time as we lay the foundations for growth in our economy, we need to navigate together some very difficult global and domestic conditions.

This global uncertainty and higher costs and higher interest rates at home are all combining to slow our economy.

We’ve seen some of that already and we expect things to slow more substantially still.

The difference between this slowdown and the last two big ones – during COVID and the GFC – is we need to be cautious that any help we provide doesn’t make our inflation challenge worse.

That’s why our Budget in May was handed down in the service of our immediate responsibilities to help people, and our generational obligations to the future economy –

While improving our Budget so we have stronger buffers and can strengthen the foundations of our public finances.

On each of these fronts, the resources sector has been a force for good and I’m here to acknowledge that and convey my appreciation for that.

Australians and especially I think Queenslanders know that the resources sector has been, is, and will always be a critical contributor to our national prosperity.

It’s the largest sector of our economy –

Employs around 300,000 people –

Including 70,000 here in Queensland –

Accounts for two‑thirds of our exports – bringing in around $460 billion a year –

And has been a critical source of productivity growth in our economy – pioneering innovations like self‑driving trucks, and the smart, effective use of data.

Our Budget papers show that we still expect mining export volumes to grow –

And we’re working with you to make sure we address your skills needs and our workforce challenges now and for the future –

Including through the upcoming Employment White Paper.

We know and appreciate that your success is indivisible from our success, as a nation and as a state.

Another good example of that is the contribution you make to the health of the country’s finances.

The main reason for the recovery in revenues in recent times, responsible for about four in every ten dollars in upward revisions, has been the strength of the labour market –

The fact that we now have record employment of more than 14 million people –

Record participation including the highest ever women’s participation –

And an unemployment rate with a three in front of it despite everything that’s coming at us.

But another two in every ten of those dollars is because of the good prices that we get for the exports you sell to the world.

We’ve seen strong commodity prices before –

But not all governments have used them responsibly.

The 87 per cent of revenue improvements that we returned to the bottom line over the last two Budgets –

Is the historical exception, not the norm –

Which has hovered around 40 per cent for much of the last decade, and was just 30 per cent during the Howard years.

Thanks to our discipline, our government is currently on track to deliver the first budget surplus in 15 years.

This surplus for our first year in office will be even bigger than what we forecast in May.

We were deliberately restrained, cautious and conservative, methodical and responsible.

We wanted to rebuild our buffers, and we are.

We wanted to take pressure off inflation, and we are.

All this means that the contribution of your sector to the Budget is critical –

And so is the big, positive, direct impact you’ve had on our communities over decades now.

Your sector has created thousands of jobs for Queenslanders –

Roles which tend to pay incomes that are more than 50 per cent higher than the national average.

Treasury analysis tells us that these jobs have helped people from disadvantaged backgrounds to live more purposeful, meaningful, prosperous lives –

Helping to improve economic and social mobility –

And realising the promise of equal opportunity that’s at the heart of who we are –

As a nation and a state.

Mining and the energy transformation

So, Australian mining has underpinned so much of our national success –

And it will underpin our efforts to make the next era even more prosperous than the last –

As we look to take advantage of the big opportunity that is the shift to cleaner, cheaper energy.

A strong and successful energy transformation will be built on a strong and successful resources sector.

We can’t generate renewable energy or get to net zero without the copper and cobalt that go in solar panels and wind turbines –

And we can’t store it without the lithium, nickel and graphite needed for batteries.

That’s why, on some estimates, meeting the world’s climate goals by 2050 will require a 450 per cent increase in the production of these minerals.

The scale of that task is formidable, but Australia stands ready to play a big part.

We are already the world’s largest producer of lithium –

Third largest producer of cobalt –

And fourth largest producer of rare earths.

In other words, we have what the world needs when the world needs it.

And many of those resources are right here in Queensland.

In our North‑West and our North‑East –

In Mount Isa and Cloncurry –

Charters Towers and Townsville –

Dozens of projects are underway to map, explore and eventually extract the critical minerals at our disposal –

Supporting and growing the sector’s footprint in a region where it already accounts for thousands of jobs.

From all of this, we can draw one firm conclusion:

The role of critical minerals in driving us towards net zero is a generational, defining opportunity for our country, for our state, and for your sector –

One we cannot afford to miss.

This is a competitive advantage that we can build on.

We don’t need to choose between resources and renewable energy – or between mining and manufacturing.

Our task is to recognise how these sectors can best work together –

So that we can make the most of the opportunities ahead.

Queensland has a big role to play here.

So much of our national success will be determined by our state’s capacity to capitalise on the transformation to cleaner, cheaper energy.

By diversifying our approach to resources, we can deepen and broaden the industrial capacity of our economy –

From mining into refining and from processing into advanced manufacturing.

We will reinvent and redefine what it means to be a resources powerhouse –

Creating more jobs and more opportunities in more industries here in Queensland and across the country.

But while the potential is obvious, success is not guaranteed.

And what I want to do now, is to take you through the three factors that we’ll have to manage well if we’re to make the most of these opportunities:

One, building new resilience in supply chains –

Two, making the right critical mineral investments that work for our people and our international partners –

And three, linking critical minerals up properly with a broader effort to drive growth through the energy transformation.

Building resilience in supply chains

In 2023, you don’t need to look far to appreciate the challenges and risks that concentrated supply chains can pose.

We saw it with all kinds of goods during the pandemic –

With gas, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine –

And with oil, many times before.

When price and supply become hostage to geopolitical competition, conflict, or circumstance –

The results are severe for our people, our businesses, and our economies.

The understandable task that the international community has set itself as a result, is to diversify –

To make supply chains more resilient –

So that we have safe, secure access to the minerals and resources that we need –

Fairly priced, and fairly shared.

Currently, there is one country that dominates processing for copper, rhenium, nickel, cobalt, lithium and virtually every other critical mineral and rare earth I could name –

And that’s China.

This kind of concentration isn’t going to lead to the strong, secure supply chains that we need –

And if critical minerals are going to create the opportunities that they should for the global community, we’ve got to address it.

Which is exactly what we’re doing.

A central part of our critical minerals strategy that Madeleine talked you through on Monday is building international partnerships which will help us diversify across all parts of the supply chain.

For example, if President Biden succeeds in winning Congress’ support –

The incentives in the IRA will encourage American clean energy manufacturers to anchor their supply chains here in Australia.

And we’re working on how we can align incentives with other international partners too –

Including the UK, Korea, France, Germany, Japan and more –

To make sure that the Australian critical mineral investments that we need for a more sustainable, prosperous future get off the ground –

Which is the second thing we need to do well if we’re to properly harness the opportunities on offer here.

Identifying, prioritising and partnering on critical mineral investments

To properly link critical mineral projects into global supply chains and local upstream opportunities, we’re:

Spending over $57 million to step up our international engagement –

Allocating $23 million to ensure that Australian critical minerals have world leading environmental, social and governance credentials –

And making more than $2.5 billion available for government investment in critical minerals projects.

Now, here, I want to be pretty clear.

Our strategy is not protectionism –

Or a return to the approaches of the past.

That would be a narrow view of the moment we’re in.

None of what we’re doing involves shutting the world out.

It’s about finding new ways to partner and co‑operate –

Thinking strategically about how to benefit from initiatives like the Inflation Reduction Act –

And co‑ordinating with your sector, Australian business, and our allies, to get outcomes which work in all of our interests.

All this is tied together by what we’re doing to make sure that Australian mining is set up for success.

We know that our potential in critical minerals will remain unfulfilled unless you’ve got access to a skilled workforce –

Capable of driving the productivity improvements that will support a profitable Australian mining sector in this decade and the next.

And we’ve got a comprehensive agenda here to help, playing out across government:

We’re working with the states and territories to lift school performance –

Reforming our foundational skills program to ensure that more Australians can access the opportunities you create –

And Clare O’Neil is getting to work changing our migration system to ensure that we’re attracting the best and brightest.

Of course, all this won’t have anywhere near the impact it should unless people can live where they can best work.

We need to build more homes, and that’s what we’re doing –

Dedicating $9.5 billion to housing over our first year alone.

Critical minerals and Australia’s role as a renewable energy superpower

All this is important for your sector –

And will be explored further in our Employment White Paper later this year.

But it also has strong links with our efforts to become a renewable energy superpower.

Our vision is to go one better than extracting and exporting.

By backing in refining, processing and advanced manufacturing, critical minerals will also underpin our journey towards becoming a renewable energy superpower.

To succeed, we’ll need the right workforce with the right skills –

And to make the right investments now.

In total, we’ve allocated more than $40 billion to the creation of more opportunities at the intersection of energy and industry –

Including through a new Powering Australia Industry Growth Centre, that will help make sure that our renewables manufacturers are connected into and making the most of, the unique resources that we’ve got at our disposal.


Over the last few days, the central theme you’ve been talking to here at this congress is ‘Creating value for society’.

So, to finish, let me affirm our view that mining’s value has never been so certain, its place in our country never more secure.

It’s a critical source of national wealth –

Helps us to fund the services that our people need –

As well as providing them with opportunities in high‑skilled, high‑paid work.

Rethinking what resource sectoral strength means in the new economy will create new jobs, new revenue streams and new industries in a new age of prosperity for our country.

And because of critical minerals, these threads will continue to bind the future of your sector to the future of this country.

Without Australian mining we will not achieve supply chain security –

Without Australian mining, we won’t get to net zero –

Without Australian mining, our ambition to become a renewable energy superpower will be impossible to achieve –

And without Australian mining, we won’t play the role that we can and should, in the new global economy.

The way ahead is to work together.

That’s why we’ll continue to partner with you whenever and wherever we can –

Not always agreeing on everything –

But continuing to engage, to learn and to co‑operate –

Recognising that our economy and our country will be much better off when we focus on finding common ground in the common good –

On creating new Australian wealth that’s widespread and long‑lasting –

In a more, secure, sustainable, prosperous world.

Thanks very much.