Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Statements by Senators

Mining Industry

12:25 pm

Photo of Susan McDonaldSusan McDonald (Queensland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Resources) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to point out that those calling for the end of mining in this country are also calling for the end of our economy as we know it, the end of many small family owned businesses, the end of high-paying regional jobs, the end of royalties and taxes flowing into government coffers to pay for roads, for schools, for hospitals, and the end of serious investment. We know that there was mining investment of over $27 billion, of which 82 per cent was spent within the Queensland economy alone. These numbers are especially significant when you extrapolate them across the rest of the country. It is one thing for antimining campaigners to tweet angrily about this industry, but they completely miss the point, notwithstanding the fact that their mobile devices wouldn't exist without mining, because there is hypocrisy abounding in such circles. It is a great shame that mining's contribution to our lives is ignored by many of our thought and policy leaders. Many who work in this place are giving oxygen to the fears of children who believe mining is destroying their futures and are inspiring people to glue themselves to the road.

This month the Queensland Resources Council released their eighth code effectiveness report 2021. This is a review of the code of practice for local content expenditure. This is a terrifically important document because it measures the very things that we, as a community, as a society, expect our significant miners, no matter what sector they're in, to contribute to this country in all sorts of ways. In particular I want to talk about what's happening in Queensland. This report shows that spending by mining and energy companies on local goods and services rose by $1 billion, or four per cent, and it's expected to increase again this financial year. Eighty-two per cent of the $27.7 billion expenditure was spent in Queensland. That is money that goes to small, medium and large businesses. It ensures that there is private sector employment, remembering that the mining sector has double the average wages and salaries in this country. Average salaries in Australia currently sit at $92,000 per year, so these are incredibly well-paid jobs. Brisbane is home to thousands of FIFO miners and mining head offices, so imagine what would happen to Queensland's capital if you ripped $14.2 billion out of its economy.

While the size of Brisbane and its diverse business interests may be able to cushion the blow, transport that loss of spending to more distant places, such as Blackwater, Capella, Tieri, Dysart, Chinchilla and Oakey. These towns are filled with family owned companies servicing the nearby mines and gasworks. There are engineering firms, bakeries, service stations, laundromats, cleaners, caterers, tyre businesses and environmental services. I think a significant part of the mining story that is sometimes lost is that mining companies employ more environmental scientists and undertake more environmental research, surveys and programs than any other sector in the country. It is mining that ensures that the high standard of regulation demanded by governments at a state and federal level are met. This is something that mining companies—miners—are determined to achieve, and their ESG responsibilities are something that they are incredibly proud of.

The Mackay region welcomed $5.49 billion in direct spending across 2020-21, well ahead of other mining hubs across the state. The Isaac region, home to 27 operating coalmines, welcomed $2.12 billion in direct spending, while Gladstone received $2.12 billion and the Central Highlands received $1.28 billion.

This report is an important measure of the contribution of these companies supporting local businesses and supply chains in the regions in which they operate right across Queensland. The money has enormous flow-on benefits, not to mention the royalties and taxes on top of these figures that go, as I said before, to roads, schools, hospitals and all of those services that we expect government to provide. Mining companies and businesses are also embedded in their local communities. They sponsor sporting teams. They fund community infrastructure, like pools and playgrounds. But, most importantly of all, they provide the well-paid, purposeful, meaningful work that allows Queenslanders to have a quality of life that would not exist without the operation of these mining companies. In these regions, it is mines that provide the jobs that allow Indigenous kids and every other young kid who is in the regions to have well-paid, meaningful work. This is incredibly important because we expect our miners to be good corporate citizens, and yet they are doing the thing that allows people right across the state to live a great life.

One in every six jobs and one in every $5 spent in Queensland can be linked to resource companies. But what is happening at a government level? In Queensland, the state government has increased royalties. Three years ago, there was an increase in gas royalties and, most recently, there was a completely unconsultative increase in coal royalties. This sent a shockwave of monumental proportions not just through the coal community but through every mining and resource business in Queensland. It set a level of uncertainty for investment.

In addition, the Japanese ambassador and other trading partners have expressed their serious concern about whether or not Queensland and Australia is a secure and stable trading partner and whether or not we'll continue to be able to provide the energy reserves and resources that they need to operate their own economies. We most recently had the Japanese Prime Minister fly to Australia to have exactly that conversation. The resources minister was in Japan last weekend having the same conversation with her counterpart to try and deflect from the fact that at both the state and federal level Labor is determined to kill the goose that lays the golden egg for this nation.

BHP and other companies have already scaled down operations in response to royalty hikes. They are very clearly telling these governments that they are now unable to make business investment decisions in these places. They are instead looking at competing jurisdictions overseas. We know that there will be projects. Those billions of dollars I started by talking about, the 82 per cent that's spent in Queensland alone and 98 per cent which is spent in Australia, is just from Queensland investment. But that money will not be spent in this country. It will go offshore. That will damage our quality of life.

This federal Labor government and the state Labor government do not have a plan to replace this section of our economy. They do not have a plan to ensure that Queenslanders and Australians will continue to enjoy the quality of life that they have currently. They have no plan. They have a cabinet that's divided. We know that the renewables sector—and they are putting all their eggs into that basket—does not employ the same number of people and does not have the same number of well-paid jobs that we are used to in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia. They certainly do not have them in the regional places with the investments in regional communities that we have got used to in this country.

There is no plan to successfully convert our economy, our electricity, our jobs, our royalties and our tax regime in the absence of our resources sector in this country. I think this is incredibly dangerous. Australians and Queenslanders should be furious that we are threatening the economic prosperity, the environmental prosperity and the future of our children and our grandchildren for a short-sighted rush to change this economy.