The role of the resources sector in Australia's recent record trade surplus

It is a happy moment for this country that we have recorded a record trade surplus on Friday just gone. In the latest statistics we now have a trade surplus of almost $6 billion—$5.8 billion. It has increased by $5.3 billion. It is a record amount. It is the highest amount on record in this nation. $3.2 billion of that $5.3 billion increase was down to an increase in mining and resources exports. So it was something that was driven by the resources sector in some sense. For the mining sector it was also a record amount of mining exports in December 2016 of $16 billion. That is a happy outcome for our nation, too.

Senator O'SULLIVAN (Queensland) (14:32): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan. Can the minister outline to the Senate what role the resources sector has played in Australia's recent record trade surplus?

 

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:32): I thank Senator O'Sullivan for his question. I love getting questions from Senator O'Sullivan because he is positive about the potential of our resources industry to drive economic growth in our country and create jobs. He knows it well in the area that he is from in Western Queensland, and it is also important in my part of the world in Central Queensland as well. He is right to point out that it is a happy moment for this country that we have recorded a record trade surplus on Friday just gone. In the latest statistics we now have a trade surplus of almost $6 billion—$5.8 billion. It has increased by $5.3 billion. It is a record amount. It is the highest amount on record in this nation. $3.2 billion of that $5.3 billion increase was down to an increase in mining and resources exports. So it was something that was driven by the resources sector in some sense. For the mining sector it was also a record amount of mining exports in December 2016 of $16 billion. That is a happy outcome for our nation, too.

So the idea that the mining boom is over or finished is wrong. People who make that claim are dead wrong. The mining boom has not finished, because we are exporting record amounts of mining commodities in history. We have never exported as much iron ore and coal as we are at the moment. Thankfully for us, in the last six months the prices have also been at elevated levels. Those prices may not be maintained at those levels we have seen, and some have certainly come off in the last few months, but we will continue to export near record amounts over the next few years because our sector is very strong and very competitive. It has some of the most efficient coal and iron ore mines and other mines in the world. That is a good outcome for our nation and for the thousands of people who rely on the industry for their jobs.

The PRESIDENT: Is there a supplementary question, Senator O'Sullivan?

 

 

Senator O'SULLIVAN (Queensland) (14:34): Can the minister advise what resource commodities are in greatest demand and who our biggest customers of energy resources are?

 

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:34): As I mentioned in the first answer to Senator O'Sullivan's question, there was a record amount of exports from our mining sector as well in December 2016. We are exporting record amounts of iron ore and coal, which is a great outcome for our nation. It is a great outcome for the environment too, because we have some of the highest quality coal in the world. In terms of carbon emissions it is better for the world that the world uses our coal and not some other coal in other countries which is not of such high quality. We have had record growth in our exports to China; even the European Union is increasing as a share of our resource exports. What is really important for our nation is that India and other Asian countries are coming onto the map. India is now our biggest destination for metallurgical coal. These parts of the world have strong growth prospects, so it is good for our mining sector.

 

Senator O'SULLIVAN (Queensland) (14:35): Green coal—that is the way to go. Is the minister aware of any obstacles in place that are holding back future growth of Australia's resources sector?

 

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:35): I will take that as a suggestion and comment from Senator O'Sullivan. He is absolutely right about the government's intent and objective to attract more investment in our resources sector. Obviously the strong outcomes of the sector are helping in that regard, but we are also being proactive and making sure that we facilitate investment coming into this country. That is why we have established the one-stop shop for environmental approvals, a change that we believe will save upwards of nearly $400 million a year in regulatory costs. That will help bring investment to our country, investments like the Amrun project, which was formerly known as the South of Embley project, in Cape York. Senator O'Sullivan would know that full well. That has finally been approved, and it is a great thing for the people of Cape York. It is an area that needs jobs and investment. It has a strong and proud Indigenous community, and they are very proud that that project now takes the name of a local language dialect, Amrun. That is a project of more than $2 billion that is going to drive growth in Cape York. It is another great outcome that our resource industries are delivering for Australia.

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