Monday, 22 March 2021
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we're facing immense economic instability. We know there are more than one million people who are unemployed and there's growing uncertainty when it comes to the sustainability of jobs and industries across the country. I pledge to keep working to address these issues, but I do want to place on record today how much more serious Australia's economic position would be if it weren't for our extremely valuable resources industry. That's why I want to thank the member for Brand, the shadow minister for resources and trade, for putting this important motion before the parliament and raising this as a matter of urgency so that we can debate this issue.
This is a sector that is central to our country's economy and to hundreds of thousands of working Australians' livelihoods. I've been a big supporter of Queensland's resources industry, and I'm proud to say that our state's industry is worth more than those of New South Wales, Victoria, Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT combined. Since the last election—straight after the election—I had the privilege of visiting several mines across my home state of Queensland, alongside the member for Paterson and number of colleagues. This made me completely optimistic about our country's future.
The mines we visited from the Mackay region, in the member for Dawson's electorate, right down to Gladstone were providing opportunities for a huge portion of the state's population. In fact, Queensland's resources industry alone hires more than 68,000 people. About 2,720 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in regional and remote areas choose to work in the sector. It provides new opportunities for apprentices and trainees. This industry, which made up half of Australia's total export share in 2019-20, supercharges our economy, providing $238 billion every year so we can build the roads and bridges—and the NDIS, as we've just heard from the previous speaker—that we drive on and we can make the crucial improvements to our way of life. This is an industry that will be key to Australia's strong economic recovery post the COVID-19 pandemic.
On my visit to the heart of Queensland's resources industry, I saw firsthand the opportunities that have been created to diversify and bolster our energy sector. I visited Adani's Rugby Run solar farm, a 65-megawatt project that powers more than 23,000 homes and businesses in regional Queensland. This solar farm is a key contributor to the Queensland government's goal of reaching its 50 per cent renewable target by 2030. This is just one example of how our diverse and world-class commodities have put us on a path to allow every Australian to access reliable, affordable power into the future. Australia produces 10 of the 16 commodities needed for the manufacturing of solar panels. We hold the largest reserves of lithium anywhere in the world and we mine every commodity required to build smartphones and the battery and storage technology of the future. When you look at numbers like that, it's easy to see that this sector positions Australia at the forefront of technological advancement on the world stage and makes a significant contribution to our strength as an exporter. At home, huge numbers of people are employed in the sector. It provides around 238,000 direct jobs across Australia, but there are also many who reap the peripheral benefits of this booming industry. In my home state of Queensland, more than 38,000 people in the sector earn an average salary of around $146,000, and they spend this income propping up our local economies. Regional communities are supported by the sector, particularly by the more than 5,700 essential fly-in fly-out workers who contribute to the $27 billion spent annually on goods and services from more than 15,200 local businesses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented immense challenges to the resource sector workers and to the industry as a whole. Today I want to recognise the tireless efforts and sacrifices made by so many hardworking people to push through this tough time and contribute to Australia's economic strength and our growth for years to come.
Australian mining and resources remain the jewel in the crown of this country's economy and workforce. We must be committed to incentivising and investing in future talent and reinforcing that there is a pathway into the mining and resource sector for our high school students, TAFE and university graduates. We also need to make further commitments to invest in becoming leaders in scientific research to develop the technology necessary for further exploration under the work of the experts in the field.
I know that an Albanese Labor government has confidence in the future of the sector and will be committed to supporting workers in the resources industry as well as those in sectors who benefit from a healthy commodities trade. It's never been more important to ensure this extraordinary-value sector continues to thrive, one I am a huge supporter of.