Thursday, 4 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Senator Ruston. Can the minister update the Senate on the important contribution of the resources sector to our economy, particularly in rural and regional Australia? What risks threaten the sector's continued economic contribution to our country?
I thank Senator Canavan for his question and his very strong interest and advocacy on behalf of our very important resources sector. Like the rest of the Morrison-McCormack government, we understand what a huge role the resources sector plays in creating jobs, especially in rural and regional Australia. It's an absolute pillar of our economic prosperity. It is crucial because it employs more than 264,000 Australians—hardworking Australians. Our coal exports contributed $43.8 billion to the Australian economy last year alone. These export earnings help to pay for the infrastructure that we need—the hospitals, the schools and all of the things that Australians obviously rely on. The sector is absolutely critical for our economic prosperity, and it has been absolutely steadfast in its contribution to our economic recovery from the COVID pandemic.
Yes, Senator Canavan, there are some very significant risks to the sector. In front of us, right now, there are risks from those sitting opposite and their state colleagues in the Queensland government. The recent High Court decision in relation to the New Acland mine, in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, has exposed exactly that—and the Queensland government's failures to support the resources sector in that state. New Hope have been battling for five years to try and resolve the planning approvals for the expansion of that mine. I'll quote New Hope's chief executive, who said:
What we need from the government—
the Queensland government—
is a roadmap for how we get the project up and running because more delays equates to more job losses.
It is absolutely essential that this world-class operator, the kind of operator that we want operating in Australia, is able to get on with the job of making investments and creating jobs for Australians.
I'm glad the minister referred to the New Acland Mine, because there are 500 jobs at risk there, thanks to the twiddling of the thumbs of the Queensland government. Can the minister outline how project delays threaten jobs in regional Queensland?
Indeed, Senator Canavan, it is the kind of lack of support that we've seen from the Queensland government around this mine that has seen New Hope in this position. It's because of a lack of support for our resources sector. New Hope originally lodged their application to expand this mine site in 2007, and it is still waiting for that approval. So you don't need to be Einstein to understand that the Queensland government does not support these sorts of projects in Queensland.
As you said, Senator Canavan, 500 direct jobs will be created by the extension of this particular mine. New Hope, unfortunately, was forced to make 150 workers redundant on the back of the fact that it was not able to get the approval to extend this mine. As Minister Pitt said yesterday, workers trying to plan their lives around the mine's future are now back to square one. How on earth can that be helping the COVID recovery and the people of Queensland, who deserve our help in getting jobs? (Time expired)
Clearly a secure and stable coal industry is something that's going to support regional Queensland. It supports regional Australia. It is absolutely critical in job creation and economic prosperity, particularly in rural and regional Australia.
Unfortunately, the case of this particular mine site, the New Acland Mine, highlights that Labor is particularly erratic when it comes to any commentary it makes about the resources sector. Those opposite need to stand up for the resources sector, and I thank those of them that do. They talk the talk but they do not walk the walk. What we need is a united and demonstrated fight for the people who live in our rural and regional areas who need the jobs that are created by projects such as this. They need to stop walking both sides of the street. You can't have one policy for inner-city suburbs and a different policy when you actually get out there in the regions, where these jobs really matter. The livelihoods of individuals really matter.
Senator Watt interjecting—
Yes, I've been there, Senator Watt.