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Address to Queensland Resources Expo, Rockhampton.



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Speech The Hon Bob Baldwin, MP

26 May 2007

Queensland Resources Expo, Rockhampton (Check against delivery)

It gives me great pleasure to be here. This is a great opportunity to meet people working in the field and importantly, the people who stand behind them.

The people who supply their equipment and keep it working. The people who develop the technology and innovation that have gone into making the Australian resource industry one of the most progressive and globally competitive sectors in Australia.

I'd also like to say that the Australian Government and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources are very pleased to have been able to support such a worthwhile event.

I probably don't need to tell anyone here that Australia is one of the world's leading exploration and mining nations and a major source of minerals and metals.

We have been blessed with vast natural resources, a stable society, incredible human and intellectual capital and a strong economy and therefore we have a strong position in the global market.

Our comparative advantage has made us highly attractive to international resource investment.

As a result, the resources sector is integral to our economy.

Export earnings from the minerals and energy sector are forecast to exceed $100 billion this year, contributing almost 60 per cent of our merchandise exports and 45 per cent of total exports.

Notwithstanding the fact that we have these vast mineral deposits, our mining industry is also efficient, professional, high tech, innovative and smart…it's an industry that thinks smart, and works smart.

Necessity and commercial imperatives mean that our miners have developed innovative ways of doing things, often under challenging conditions in remote and inhospitable locations.

Statistics on Research and Development for 2004-05, the most recent gathered by the ABS and released in August last year, showed that mining was a major contributor to Australia's record level of business R&D expenditure with $1.2 billion of a total of $8.4billion.

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In a minerals-rich nation, Queensland is particularly minerals rich and makes a significant contribution to the Australian totals as well as to State coffers.

Your resource base is widely dispersed and extraordinarily diverse.

No doubt this is why Queensland is one of Australia's most decentralised economies.

I know it's probably risky to say it in a city that calls itself the Beef Cattle Capital of Australia but mining has played a central role in Queensland's 140 year history.

It is a major employer, with 19,000 Queenslanders directly employed in the industry and is indirectly responsible for a further 65,000 jobs.

Minerals and mineral exports represent around a half of Queensland overseas exports, valued at $10.9 billion in 2003-04.

Queensland is Australia's largest coal exporter, shipping more than 89 million tonnes in 2005-06, about half of the national coal exports total.

Total expenditure on minerals exploration in Queensland in 2005-06 was $219 million, about 17 per cent of the national spend, and a 136.3 per cent increase since 2001-02.

The Australian Government recognises that exploration underpins the mining industry's success.

The services and expertise provided by Geoscience Australia is a key to exploration activity.

Geoscience Australia's services were given added impetus in August last year, with the announcement by the Prime Minister John Howard of a $134 million energy security package.

Of this, $58.9 million will enable Geoscience Australia to pioneer innovative and integrated research to better understand onshore Australia's geological potential for both minerals and petroleum.

And an additional $76.4 million will be injected into offshore exploration in frontier areas - a high priority in terms of future energy security and export markets.

Geoscience Australia's 'Big New Oil' program will result in the capture of pre-competitive data covering three times the area of the previous program.

Earlier, I highlighted the fact that the resources sector directly and indirectly generates around 84,000 jobs for Queenslanders. As a result the industry provides significant opportunities for some indigenous communities.

Often, the sector is one of the few that provides employment and business opportunities in remote Australia.

Because of this potential, my Department, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, created the Working in Partnership program in 2001 to help foster long term partnerships between indigenous communities and mining and exploration companies.

A workshop held at the Dreamtime Centre in Rockhampton in April 2004 has resulted in the formation of a regional group of indigenous, industry and government representatives which has been very active in pursuing high priority issues.

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This has resulted in increased employability, jobs and business enterprises that create prosperity for indigenous Australians that endure beyond the life of specific mining operations.

This leads me to the issues of skills shortages generally.

I want to reassure you that the shortage of skilled workers is well-recognised within the Government.

Along with industry and other governments, we have undertaken a significant amount of work to better understand the nature and location of the shortages, now and into the future.

The program to establish 25 Australian Technical Colleges and increase the pool of skilled workers is a key strategy to address this pressing issue.

Colleges at Gladstone and Townsville have been funded to offer trade training and industry placements.

On a related matter, I'd like to compliment the Queensland Government for its Women in Hard Hats initiative to encourage women to consider careers in non-traditional occupations.

However, having got people to the workplace, we also have to ensure they work safely.

That's why we've formed a tripartite working group comprising workforce, industry and state, territory and Australian governments to develop the National Mine Safety Framework.

This initiative of the Ministerial Council on Mineral and Petroleum Resources is aimed at achieving consistency across all Australian jurisdictions in mining health and safety.

The working group is about to begin public consultation on three of seven strategies under the proposed framework.

The three strategies being consulted on initially will provide the basis for further strategic development.

Consultation is expected to commence next month.

The working group will seek online input, written submissions and hold some public workshops.

I urge you to have your say in developing the laws that affect you.

Before I close, I just want to touch on two issues of crucial importance to your industry.

The first is clean coal technology and the second is uranium.

Clean coal technologies include carbon capture and storage, integrated gasification combined cycle, oxy-fuel combustion, post combustion capture, lignite dewatering and drying, and ultra-clean coal.

The Australian Government supports the large scale demonstration of these technologies through its $500 million Low Emission Technology Demonstration Fund.

Already $410 million of this fund has been committed - to six projects, including $125 million for

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Queensland projects.

I'm pleased to note that the coal industry is also doing its bit, through its COAL 21 Fund.

This represents an investment of $1 billion in clean coal research over the next 10 years.

The Australian Government recognises the importance of international collaboration on the development and deployment of low emissions technology for the coal industry.

We are leading partners in two consortiums:

z The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6) Cleaner Fossil Fuel

Task Force, with a $100 million commitment towards an action plan to support improvements of environmental and economic performance of fossil fuel use; and z The Australia-China Joint Coordination Group on Clean Coal Technology, established by

Prime Minister John Howard and Premier Wen to guide several cooperative clean coal activities.

Finally, uranium … and the forecasts are that Australia's uranium industry is about to undergo a major expansion.

This is due to three major factors - an anticipated increase in global demand, rising prices and growing recognition of the potential greenhouse benefits of nuclear power.

In response, and because Australia has 36 per cent of the world's known low cost uranium, the Australian Government has developed the Uranium Industry Framework, or UIF, to address matters surrounding the sustainable development of the uranium industry.

Key action being pursued under the UIF include streamlining regulation through Commonwealth-State cooperative agreements; establishing a national incident reporting regime; developing a communication package for indigenous stakeholders and identify training, education and employment opportunities; developing a royalty regime for the Northern Territory; and removing unnecessary restrictions to the movement of uranium domestically and internationally.

This is a snapshot of how the Australian Government is working with the resources industry. I think you can be reassured that we are staunchly behind your efforts.

I'd like to congratulate members of the organising committee and the industry for their participation in this great expo and I look forward to having a roam around.

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