Editorial courtesy of the Australian.
While 86 per cent of Australians live in major cities, the Bush Summit in Perth on Monday, hosted by The Australian and Hancock Prospecting, is about issues crucial to the wellbeing of the entire nation. They include agriculture and exports, energy and resources, the development of regional services and quality of life through investment and opening up the potential of northern Australia. In her keynote speech, Resources Minister Madeleine King, the Albanese government’s most senior member from the west, is expected to focus on the importance of the mining sector, including coal and gas, and the need to expand critical minerals operations in northern regions to drive prosperity and help revive regional communities. Other key speakers will include The Australian editorin-chief Michelle Gunn and Hancock Prospecting Group chair Gina Rinehart.
Irrespective of ideological splits within Labor over the future of the coal and gas industries, both are vital – to export revenue and to fuel the nation until a viable transition to low carbon energy is achieved. “In the financial year just ended, our resource and energy export earnings – led by coal, iron ore, gold, aluminium and gas – are forecast to hit a record $459bn,’’ Ms King will tell the summit.
She will also highlight the potential of northern Australia’s critical minerals operations. Australia is already the world’s No. 1 producer of lithium and a top-five producer of cobalt and rare earths. All are essential for electric vehicle batteries and the magnets that comprise electric vehicle motors. “The global energy transition now under way presents us with a priceless opening to grow our resources industry, boost our value-adding capabilities and become a clean energy superpower,’’ Ms King will explain. In addition to economic opportunities, the summit will be about bush residents’ quality of life.
Australians in rural and remote areas, Ms King believes, have a right to the same basic services on offer to city dwellers. The regions and the bush have a lot of ground to make up, however. As Mrs Rinehart wrote in The Australian last week, that includes overcoming a “lack of hospitals, lack of dentists and vets, (and) continual reduction in medical services such as maternity and birthing’’.
The need for access to 24-hour airstrips capable of servicing the Royal Flying Doctor Service planes is another priority.
On the positive side, resources companies are the largest employer of Indigenous people, Ms King will tell the summit. And local recruitment, training, education and procurement programs will be important in achieving social and economic improvement: “Investing in northern Australia’s economy will boost migration to these areas. It will enable the provision of services and economic opportunities for country people that city dwellers take for granted. It will help accelerate development of the north’s abundant mineral and energy resources – which as I have often said are key to our goal of reaching net-zero emissions.’’ The summit is the second of six to be held around the nation, to discuss challenges facing regional Australians. The events are timely in light of concerns about energy policy – including the spread of foreignowned wind turbines and solar panels across thousands of hectares of prime land – future droughts, the importance of northern Australia as a location for basing stronger defences and the need for policies to attract investment to the regions.