Monday, 22 March 2021
After more than a decade living in George Town—for most of those years, serving on the local council, including as mayor—I would hope that the community would almost consider me as a local. So it's as a local that I proudly stand here to support this motion—I'd have been happy to second it—recognising the significance of our resources industry and the extraordinary value of the resources industry to the Australian economy and Australian livelihoods.
Bell Bay, located in the municipality of George Town, is the heart of Tasmania's resources industry and is our state's largest industrial precinct at 2½ thousand hectares in size. Fifty-nine per cent of all of Tasmania's manufactured exports are produced in the Bell Bay area, including manganese and aluminium. At the heart of the industry is Bell Bay Aluminium, situated on the Tamar River. Opened in 1955, the smelter was the first built in the southern hemisphere. It began as a joint venture of the Tasmanian and Australian governments, primarily to overcome the difficulties of importing aluminium during wartime. In 1960, the business was acquired by Comalco Industries Pty Ltd and, in 2000, Rio Tinto purchased Comalco. The smelter is now operated by Rio Tinto's Pacific Operations division and produces around 190,000 tonnes of aluminium each year, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The importance of the smelter to the local economy and, beyond that, the regional and state economy, cannot be underestimated. It's the largest employer in the area, with around 500 FTE and an additional 60 contractors per day. Independent studies have also found that Bell Bay Aluminium directly and indirectly employs approximately 1,500 Tasmanians and contributes around $690 million per annum to gross state product. There is no doubt that the smelter still occupies a firm place in the hearts of my constituents.
As it's an industry not widely known for being a significant employer of women in more senior positions—although I do note that this is changing—I was really pleased to see Shona Markham, Bell Bay Aluminium's general manager of operations, speak at a recent International Women's Day breakfast in Launceston, highlighting her rise to senior levels of a typically male-dominated industry. I'm sure that, like me, Shona hopes that, in the future, her story will no longer be the exception.
While Bell Bay Aluminium is the jewel of the industry in our state, for the region to grow and avoid overreliance on one operation or employer, there is a need for diversification in the industry, including expansion from being solely resource industry based to identifying other options, including that of renewable energy. This led to the formation of the Bell Bay Advanced Manufacturing Zone. Led by Bell Bay Aluminium, the BBAMZ, as it is known, was established in 2015 from a desire by businesses in the region for better collaboration and to grow the region's capabilities by supporting existing businesses, encouraging investment and promoting the benefits of the region as a place to live and work.
As an industry based economic development group, BBAMZ is working in collaboration with government and community to support growth, investment and business diversification in the George Town and Tamar Valley regions. The BBAMZ's aim is to lift the profile of the Bell Bay zone locally, nationally and internationally as well as build a sense of community pride in the region. With CEO Susie Bower at the helm, they're certainly making some strides in significant work being undertaken by the group to secure the area as a green hydrogen hub. As mentioned in the House recently, I was thrilled to learn that the Bell Bay Advanced Manufacturing Zone, as a local industry group committed to ensuring the region can remain globally competitive, received a $100,000 grant from National Energy Resources Australia for research into the latest green hydrogen technology. BBAMZ was one of 13 clusters to share in this funding as part of the National Hydrogen Strategy.
Our government has been a strong and consistent supporter of the resources industry across the country, including Tasmania, and it's the leadership of government that has been instrumental in ensuring the success and resilience of the resources sector through the pandemic. I'd particularly like to thank Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor for his commitment to the resources industry in my electorate and for his willingness to listen as I advocate for the needs of my community.