Monday, 18 February 2019
Throughout the past 10 years, the instability in our politics and indeed in our economy has made for challenging times. Fluctuating employment and growing uncertainty over the future have dominated the headlines. However, these trends could have been much worse if it were not for the Australian mining and resources sector. For more than 100 years, the mining and resources sector has been the backbone of the Australian economy and workforce, powering our nation into the 21st century and, with it, one of the best standards of living anywhere in the world. Whilst there have been many scaremongering calls to see the end of mining coming from some corners, I, for one, remain buoyed and optimistic about the role mining and resources has played in the story of Australia, particularly in Queensland, to date and, indeed, its prosperous future ahead.
In 2018, Australian resource exports set a new record of $248 billion, which also included a record $66 billion in exports of coal, making it Australia's most valuable single export. Australia has also recently become the world's single largest gas exporter ahead of Qatar, with earnings expected to increase by more than 60 per cent from $31 billion in 2017-18 to $50 billion in 2018-19.
Because the demand for critical commodities of the future is booming, Australia's mining is well placed to take advantage. We are in the top five holders of 14 out of the 35 of these critical commodities which will power the economies of the future. We have produced 10 of the 16 commodities needed for the manufacturing of solar panels. We hold the largest reserves of lithium, and we mine every commodity required to build smartphones and the battery and storage technology of the future. These numbers prove the worth that mining and resources is to the Australian economy and its people, for without it we would not be able to build the roads and bridges we drive on, we would not be able to make the important investments in health and education, and we would not be able to employ the 1.1 million Australians who have a job in the mining, equipment, technological and services sector.
Just last week, I was very proud to see Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, at Minerals Week, outlining our future vision for mining and minerals. An alternative federal government, a Shorten Labor government, will back jobs in Australian mining and resources. It's an industry which provides jobs for millions of Australians, and it's important that we provide the foundation and structure so that millions more Australians can work and prosper in the industry. That's why an elected Shorten Labor government will deliver a $2 million program to pay for 100 scholarships to enrol in mining engineering at Australian universities. We must continue to incentivise and invest in the future talent of Australian mining. We must reinforce that there is a pathway in mining and resources for our high school students and TAFE and university graduates.
In my most recent trip to the Pilbara, I've seen firsthand the difference jobs in mining and resources can make to a person. If we are elected and have the privilege of forming government, Labor will invest over $1 billion into a National Hydrogen Plan, which was announced by the Premier of Queensland and the Leader of the Opposition. I want to particularly acknowledge Zac Beers, our candidate in Flynn, who made this a reality, alongside hardworking AWU branch officials: Steve Baker, and the AWU Acting Central Queensland District Secretary, Tony Beers— (Time expired)