Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Congratulations to the member for Lalor. That was an outstanding speech. I have the pleasure tonight to speak on an industry that has existed in this country for some 165 years and had a profound impact on my upbringing growing up as a child in Western Australia's goldfields. The industry I speak of is the gold industry. It is an industry that was responsible for the birth of my hometown of Kalgoorlie, an industry that employed many family members and an industry that has many highs and lows.
Unfortunately, I feel that the gold and other mineral and resources industries do not always get the credit they deserve for their contribution to our economy. Generally speaking, the mining sector is still experiencing returns, though some more modest than others, on their investments in Western Australia, but this should not be cause for attack, or for a campaign against the industry; this should be a cause for celebration, given the thousands of people employed in this very important industry. Mining companies need to invest significant funds in project development, and it often takes years to complete the infrastructure needed for large-scale mining operations to commence. As a resources lawyer in my past life I have experienced firsthand the highs and lows of mining project development. During the years in project development the price for a commodity being explored can rise or drop considerably, and there are numerous cases when a mining project becomes untenable before one iota of gold, iron ore or gas has been extracted.
The goldmining industry in the 1800s gave the average Australian arguably the highest standard of living of anyone in the world. This is highlighted by one incredible statistic: once gold was found in Australia in the 1850s, our national population trebled in the space of just 10 short years. This is the equivalent of our current national population of 24 million jumping to a whopping 72 million in the space of 10 years. You can see how significant it was back in the 1850s and '60s.
The gold industry is currently experiencing a resurgence and we are witnessing a significant increase in exploration activity. The end result is more jobs for Western Australians now and the prospect of more jobs in the future. Given the current economic climate in Western Australia, which has experienced rising unemployment and a slowdown across the resources sector, this contribution cannot be understated. Times are a bit tough in the west at the moment, and we need to be doing everything we can to encourage the industries that are surviving and are employing Western Australians.
We are seeing relatively smaller gold companies having considerable success in turning what were considered to be unprofitable, unsuccessful goldmining ventures into profitable and sustainable projects, employing a lot of Australians along the way. These are the types of projects that make me proud of my electorate and of WA more broadly, as well as of the people who live in it. These hardworking, risk-taking people from the bush who stick their neck out and succeed where others have failed deserve to be praised but instead are often misunderstood by the media and those living in cities.
The mining industry has grown our GDP, employed our population and trained our next generation. Yet the industry rarely gets a pat on the back, and this is something that I feel deeply disappointed about. The gold industry in Western Australia accounts for 68 per cent of Australia's overall gold production, with Australia being the world's second-largest gold producer. Gold is our third-largest mineral export, and in the 2015-16 financial year our gold exports were valued at some $16 billion, with that number likely to increase again this financial year. I believe goldmining is an industry that has helped Australia to the privileged position we are currently experiencing, with gold responsible for driving our living standards in the earliest days of this nation.
With the time I have left I want to comment on something that I am particularly disappointed about. The numbers studying at the School of Mines in Kalgoorlie is dropping. This means that fewer Australians are going to be mining experts in the future. My message to year 12 school leavers and their parents is to seriously consider undertaking university qualifications relevant to the mining sector. I promise them: like the mining and resources sector, you will have a bright future.