28 August 2023

Address to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA, Perth


WA will own the future

Aunty Lois May – that was a wonderful welcome to country, thank you.

We acknowledge the Whadjuk Noongar people, their elders, their customs and traditions.

The vote on a Voice to Parliament is all about giving the First Nations people of this country and state, a say in the matters which impact them –

And I look forward to the chance that we’ll all have very soon to move forward in a spirit of recognition and respect, listening to each other in order to get better outcomes.

Thanks to Nicki for that kind introduction – to Chris and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA for bringing us together today –

It really is fantastic to be back in Perth once again.

To Rita – Treasurer Safioti has a nice ring to it – thanks for the opportunity to work with you so closely and constructively to deliver for Western Australia –

Whether that be through delivering responsible, targeted cost‑of‑living relief –

Or engaging with the opportunities of the future – building more homes, securing essential services and laying the foundations for growth.

To all of you, here today:

From your strong resources sector –

Small businesses –

Tourism and hospitality –

Local representatives and more –

Thank you.

For your contribution to our national economy –

For the opportunities that you create for people –

And for the investments that you’re making right now in the continued prosperity of this state and of this country.

Everybody here today is eyes forward –

Determined to make sure that we shape the future in our collective interests –

An attitude that our government is inspired by and that we share.

It’s been four days now since the release of the Albanese Government’s first Intergenerational Report.

Since then, we’ve been heartened with the response –

The willingness of people to think seriously about what we need to do to get where we need to go –

To be maximisers, not just managers of the big changes in front of us.

What I wanted to do today, is to engage with all of that, but from a WA perspective –

To explain to you why I think Western Australia is uniquely placed to be the big beneficiary of the transformations over the next 40 years that we outlined in the report.

My main point today is that WA has a generational opportunity to own the future.

IGR in summary

We’re optimistic about what the coming decades can look like –

And realistic about the challenges of the next twelve months.

Our priority is to do what we can to ease cost‑of‑living pressures without adding to inflation.

But the whole point of the IGR is to show that we must and that we can serve our immediate priorities and our intergenerational responsibilities at the same time –

That’s how we deal with the here‑and‑now and own the future.

The right decisions in the 2020s can set us up for the decades beyond.

That’s made clear by the IGR – and some of its key projections.

In the next forty years we expect real incomes to be 50 per cent higher –

With the economy more than double today’s size –

And for our people to be living, healthier, longer lives.

That’s the good news, but we also face some significant challenges.

As our population ages there will be a smaller share of working‑age people –

Which will put pressure on our tax base –

Increase demands on spending –

And could keep us in deficit, with debt back on the rise – even after the gains that we’ve made in the short term.

As has been commented on, our overall real GDP projections are also down from the report released in 2021 –

A reflection of our adoption of a more realistic assumption around productivity growth.

So, all these projections are informative, they’re interesting and they’re important –

Setting out a framework that can help us to understand where we’re going and why.

But nothing about what I’ve just outlined for you is pre‑determined.

WA and the big five shifts

The IGR shows that we have it within us to shape the future in our interests –

To make it one in which the next generation and the one after that can flourish –

If we handle the big transformations going on in our economy and in our society the right way.

We think of these as five big shifts:

The transition from hydrocarbons to renewables –

From IT to AI –

From globalisation to fragmentation –

From a younger population to an older one –

And the associated changes to our industrial base, especially the rise of the care economy.

The way that we handle these shifts will determine the shape of our prospects over the next 40 years –

And WA will be a big enabler and beneficiary of our efforts here –

As well positioned as any state to harness these forces to unlock another era of prosperity.

That’s not to say there won’t be some headwinds –

Your population growth right now is the fastest in the nation –

But it will age, along with the rest of the country –

Which will put pressure on the budget too – with spending on health, care and essential services due to rise.

Climate change is another pressure coming at us –

With warming temperatures posing costs and risks to sectors like tourism and agriculture.

The reason I’m optimistic though, is that sitting alongside these challenges is vast opportunity –

For our country and for your state.

Take energy.

You’re one of the best places in the world for green hydrogen –

You’ve got more than 30 projects at various stages of development –

And a vision to produce up to 100 gigawatts of clean hydrogen power in the next 10 years –

200 by 2040.

That could unlock energy for export –

But also new industries here at home –

In the production of green ammonia, steel and iron.

All this means that the shifts in our industrial base prompted by the energy transformation could significantly benefit you.

It’s true for the upstream opportunities that flow from the production of cheap, clean renewable power –

And it’s true for your resources sector as well – with the demand for critical minerals needed for an electrified future set to explode –

By around 350 per cent between now and 2040.

I don’t need to tell anybody here that lithium is the major mineral needed to make batteries –

Or that you’re the number one, global supplier, accounting for 50 per cent of the world’s market and exporting 2.2 million tonnes in 2022 – worth $5.3 billion.

Nationwide, this is due to more than double in the next five years to 4.5 million tonnes – including refined lithium –

Quadrupling the real value of this one critical mineral export to $19 billion –

With WA taking the lion’s share.

This is just one example of how WA is driving and redefining what it means to be a resources powerhouse in the 2020s and beyond –

Leveraging our traditional strengths into the creation of new ones in the years ahead.

But I know that you have broader ambitions here –

To refine, process and manufacture –

Moving up and along new supply chains to capture more of the value added.

It’s clear from the action you’re already taking –

With a lithium hydroxide refinery, plus one for nickel sulphate already built –

And more rare earths processing facilities in the works.

These future strengths in critical minerals –

In the production of green hydrogen, metals and more –

Will leave you well‑placed to help us work with our partners to secure and de‑risk the critical supply chains of net zero.

Western Australia is our current, and future export powerhouse –

Our current and future source of vast amounts of national wealth –

And the current and future home of a thriving defence industry too.

Your strengths in advanced robotics, things like remote operations, will leave you well placed to become a key defence hub –

As we travel down the AUKUS pathway to acquire our own nuclear submarine capability.

So, for Western Australia, the biggest and best opportunities are yet to come.

The next 40 years belong to WA –

You’re dominating the iron age, now your state will be critical in the age of critical minerals too.

That’s a key reason why WA will own the future.

Our policy agenda for WA

It’s also why so much of our reform agenda is about delivering for your state –

Helping you to engage with immediate challenge, while making the most of future opportunity.

The leadership of WA has changed, but our commitment to the GST deal has not.

This arrangement better reflects the contribution you make to the national economy –

It gives Western Australians a fair share –

And that’s why we’re sticking to it.

We’re also working with you to address inflation – our biggest and most pressing objective.

Price pressures are still with us, and until they completely subside, we will maintain a laser‑like focus on responsibly easing the cost‑of‑living.

It’s why we’ve partnered with the Cook government to take the edge off power bills for around 90,000 WA small businesses and 498,000 households –

Around 620,000 West Australians will also have the cost of their medicines cut in half –

And around 79,000 WA households will benefit from the biggest increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance for more than 30 years.

We’ve done all this while making good headway in repairing the Budget.

We, like you, are responsible with our fiscal settings –

Returning a majority of revenue upgrades to the bottom line –

Modifying the tax system –

And finding billions in savings –

So that we can make the future‑focused investments that we need to –

Including in the transformation of our energy system.

The investments that we’re making in generation, transmission, storage –

In adaptation –

The introduction of the safeguard mechanism –

Our Future Gas Strategy, which will promote affordability, security and ensure we remain a reliable trade and investment partner –

Plus, what we’re doing to leverage and respond to the Inflation Reduction Act – including by supporting our world‑leading green hydrogen pipeline –

Are all things that will help WA build new businesses on the foundation of clean, cheap, renewable energy –

As we work to broaden and deepen our industrial base.

Our National Reconstruction Fund will help here – investing in projects to diversify your economy and build up advanced manufacturing –

Including in defence – along with the funding we’ve set aside over the next decade to support HMAS Stirling host our new nuclear submarines.

We’re also updating our critical minerals list, so that more projects are eligible for support –

Using our critical minerals facility to get them off the ground –

Investing in value‑adding through the NRF –

And providing extra funding for projects in Northern Australia –

All things which are being co‑ordinated and delivered through the terrific work that Madeleine King is doing to implement our critical minerals strategy.

The other big, important part of our agenda for WA is about people –

Labour, human capital and migration.

We know that you won’t be able to create new industries and leverage traditional strengths into new ones without the right workforce, in the right places –

So, we’re acting.

On migration, we want settings here that work in our country’s interests –

To complement our workforce with people from overseas that can build on the talent we’re fostering here at home.

That’s why we’re thinking creatively about a migration system that is focused on permanency, on the skills that we need –

On things which elevate us –

Something that you’ll see in our Migration Strategy – to be released by Clare O’Neil soon.

All that we’re doing on migration is a broader complement to our initiatives on participation and skills.

The expansion of TAFE and university places –

The National Skills Agreement and Universities Accord –

And promoting the more effective use of technology throughout our economy –

Are all big parts of making sure our workforce is ready to take‑up the opportunities that you will create in the coming decades.

We know that a big priority for WA businesses is to improve their digital presence –

And we want to help you do that.

It’s why we’re investing in the NBN, in Digital ID –

And establishing an industry growth fund that will help you adopt and adapt to the latest technological developments over time.

All this is critical –

But if we’re to succeed in making Australians beneficiaries, not victims of the change in front of us then we need to broaden opportunity – not just deepen it.

Your participation rate is above the national average, itself close to a record high – which is something to celebrate.

In that success though, there is room to acknowledge that things like the shape of your economy, the kinds of industries you’re creating jobs in –

Means that the gap in participation between men and women is higher than the country as a whole.

So, we’re working with you to address that –

With cheaper child care –

More parental leave –

And setting targets for getting more women into apprenticeships.

Migration, skills, participation –

They’re about making sure your wealth‑creating businesses can lift‑up more people over the coming decades –

And we’ll bring them all together next month in our Employment White Paper.

But our efforts here won’t have the impact they should unless people can afford to live where they can best work.

In short, we need more homes.

We know that –

Rita and her government know that –

And we’re working together across the federation to address it.

Just a couple of weeks ago, you saw the PM, Premier Cook and the other Premiers and Chief Ministers announce a new target for our Housing Accord –

Upping it to 1.2 million new well‑located homes over five years from 2024.

We’re also introducing incentives to encourage build‑to‑rent projects – welcomed by industry –

Activating our help‑to‑buy scheme –

And we’re committed to getting our Housing Australia Future Fund through the senate.


Before I take a few questions, let me just make a few final reflections.

Since the 1980s, the Western Australian economy has grown more than 3 and a half times in size –

The value of your exports has increased 15‑fold –

And with one‑tenth of the population, you’re now responsible for around one‑fifth of our national prosperity.

It’s a story of continued and sustained economic success –

For your state and for our country.

Over the next 40 years that story will continue –

Embellished and emboldened by your role in maximising the big shifts in front of us –

As we transform our energy systems –

Build new sources of growth at the intersection between industry, people and renewable power –

And take our place in the developing supply chains of the low carbon world.

Despite all your success to here, WA is just warming up.

As I said:

The next 40 years belong to Western Australia –

And because of that, they can belong to the rest of us too.

It’s why I so value the opportunity to speak to you today –

And am looking forward to the Q&A with Aaron.

Thanks very much.