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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2099

Mining: Mineral Exploration

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:18): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan. Minister, in my home state of WA, the mining industry last year employed over 89,000 workers, paid over $1.1 billion in royalties and contributed a total of $32 billion to the Western Australian economy. How is the coalition government encouraging further mineral exploration so that the sector can continue to deliver strongly for WA and the rest of Australia?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:18): I thank Senator Brockman for his question. I know his strong support for the great and fantastic minerals industry in Western Australia—indeed, across this whole country. The federal government is supporting the development of our minerals industry, including by establishing a new tax incentive to encourage exploration, particularly in risky areas of our nation.

Explorers often put large amounts of capital at risk in areas for exploration which are unknown and untested and can often lose a lot of money if nothing is found. If nothing is found and they have lost those funds, they can't then make the tax deductions necessary against recoverable income to offset their losses. That is why the government has put in place a junior mineral exploration incentive, which will allow explorers taking these risks to recover their tax losses immediately and to provide those benefits to shareholders, so they can encourage more investment in mineral exploration. Hopefully we can find more minerals and then provide more jobs and investment in our minerals sector.

It is a measure that has been well supported by the industry, and I want to acknowledge and recognise the work that those in the industry have done in putting together this program. Chris Cairns, the managing director of Staveling Minerals, has said: 'If you don't drill, you don't discover. It's that simple. I feel the Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive is better targeted and, more importantly, is structured in such a manner that it provides greater benefit to providers of new-risk capital to junior exploration companies. So I say good on you to the Australian government for this vital and well-targeted incentive.'

This builds on a previous incentive put in place, the Exploration Development Incentive, but this particular program will allow for immediate, up-front deductions on a first-in, first-served basis. It will allow companies to better target those shareholders who will be seeking such immediate deductions and will therefore attract more capital and more investment into our minerals sector.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brockman, a supplementary question.

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:20): Thank you, Minister, for that answer. Minister, what opportunities are there for Australia's rare-earth and critical minerals sector to contribute to the rest of the world?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:20): It is an exciting time for the minerals industry. Some may argue that the modern economy does not rely on mining as much as it did before—some over there in this chamber, in that corner, might—but, in fact, the opposite is true. Modern technologies require more minerals and more metals and a more complex and diverse array of minerals than those in the past. A smartphone requires 25 different metals and minerals for its construction, and we are lucky enough in Australia to produce 18 of those minerals and metals. The United States government recently put out a draft list of minerals that they see critical to their economy for space technology, defence technology and other modern technologies. Of those 35 minerals on their list, Australia has 13, for which we are in the top five for world reserves. We have a great opportunity in Australia to take advantage of the burgeoning demand for minerals, including rare-earth and critical minerals across the world, and the Australian government is doing its bit to try to grow this industry for Australia.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brockman, a final supplementary question.

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:21): Minister, what is the coalition government doing to help discover more mineral resources in Australia?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:21): I want to compliment the great work that Geoscience Australia—a fantastic agency in our nation—does. It is a Commonwealth agency that leads efforts across Australia to find new mineral basins. The Australian government is investing $100 million into Geoscience Australia for the Exploring for the Future program. Most of our mineral finds in the past have come from outcropping—looking at rocks that are exposed on the surface. About 70 per cent of Australia has no outcropping, but there is no reason to believe that there wouldn't be just as good mineral finds over that 70 per cent of Australia. That's why we're investing $100 million in new techniques—like aeromagnetic surveys and seismic surveys—to try to uncover those areas and find the new mineral finds that will govern the benefits for the future for Australia. I'm also excited about a memorandum of understanding that we are entering into with the United States Geological Survey to work on these kinds of techniques to provide these minerals to the world and create great future opportunities for our fantastic minerals industry.