30 March 2023
Mr COULTON (Parkes—Chief Nationals Whip) (11:17): I too rise today to speak about the resources statement to parliament. I’m very proud of the record of the Parkes electorate for being a powerhouse in mining and resources for a long, long time. If we start at the western part of my electorate, at Broken Hill—the home of BHP and still an incredibly active mining town—apart from the traditional silver, lead and zinc, we now have the start of new industries. We’ve got Cobalt Blue’s Broken Hill Cobalt Project at Thackaringa, which will supply cobalt for modern needs, like battery production, electronics and the like. Close to Broken Hill, we’ve also got the Hawsons Iron project. Magnetite is the raw material that is to be used for what’s known as green steel—steel that’s produced with lower carbon emissions. To the west of Broken Hill is the mining of gold as well. Moving further east, around the Cobar and Nyngan area, there are quite a few very active mines in the copper industry. The demand for copper is growing exponentially, with the explosion of electric vehicles, and there are more projects being developed. There is a wonderful story of a local farmer purchasing a very basic metal detector and finding quite a large deposit that will be developed into a large mine.
We also have huge deposits of lithium in a little village area called Fifield, which is down towards Condobolin. Once again, lithium is a very, very important raw material for battery production. It is hoped that we may even develop into producing the batteries close to site, because one of the issues with lithium is that it is formed on site as a slurry. If it has to be dried out for transportation and then turned back into a slurry for manufacture, that’s not a particularly effective way of doing it. So there’s a lot of work going on down there now, securing water for the mining production and the like.
There are also massive gold deposits around the Dubbo area and down at Tomingley. The goldmine there has been a wonderful investment and produced large quantities of gold. Indeed, the expansion of that Tomingley goldmine will probably lead to the relocation of the Newell Highway some five kilometres to the west because, as fate would have it, the new gold seam is actually directly underneath the Newell Highway. So there’s a lot of excitement about those prospects. There have also been large gold deposits located to the east of Dubbo very recently.
One of the most exciting projects, though, is the rare earth project at Toongi, which is about 30 kays east of Dubbo. It has a lot of the minerals that are essential not only for the manufacture of electric vehicles but also in defence and in aircraft manufacture. I won’t pretend to name them all, because they’ve got names that I’m not particularly familiar with, but I know one of them when mixed with aluminium considerably strengthens the product, and you can significantly lighten the weight of, for instance, an aircraft without reducing its strength.
If we’re going to be serious about having a cleaner environment and reducing our emissions, we have to look at all of these things. In country areas it’s not just a matter of paying farmers to plant trees. That is the laziest, most ineffective and ultimately most unproductive way of treating this issue. It is through our efficiency and our technology that we will become a more effective, cleaner and wealthier economy.
Up in the eastern part of my electorate, in the Gunnedah Basin, around Narrabri and Gunnedah, we have a coal industry that goes back over 100 years. They have been mining coal at Gunnedah since the 1800s. More recently, we’ve seen some developments with some larger mines at Maules Creek and the Idemitsu mine at Boggabri. There is potential for another mine just to the south of there, which is in the process of being developed at the moment.
I get very frustrated when people rail against coal in this place. Our colleagues in the Greens love to rail against coal. The irony of it is that the Maules Creek coal—low in sulphur, low in ash—is largely exported to Japan, because when Japan lost their nuclear generators through the tsunami they didn’t replace them with nuclear; they replaced them with efficient, low-emissions coal-fired power stations. They’re getting emissions from the Narrabri coal similar to those from gas in Japan. The irony of all that is that when you buy your Prius, to show how much you care for the environment, it may have been made from energy created by coal from my electorate.
We don’t live in a mythical place where we can just wish things without understanding their practical nature. It’s a bit like people who want to eat the sausage but just don’t want to see how it’s made. Energy is the same, and mining is the same. The member for Melbourne, who leads the charge against mining coal and gas, lives in an electorate that is completely altered. How does he think those high-rise buildings were constructed? Where did the raw materials come from for that? His river is in concrete—he doesn’t even have a natural river—and yet he wants to change things so that, in my electorate, industries that have been underpinning this economy, this country, for over 100 years will be wiped out. He wants to see them wiped out. He has no regard for the jobs of the people in my electorate.
The hypocrisy rolls out to our colleagues the teals. The member for North Sydney and the member for Mackellar were so incensed about the possibility of a coal seam gas operation in the Pilliga forest that they had to go and see for themselves. Did they take the Tesla? No, no. They hired a big helicopter—not just a normal old Robinson but a big one with two motors—to go to the wilds of the Parkes electorate to see the concern about what a gas industry would mean. The irony of that is that that gas is destined to go to a power station in the Hunter to help with the fluctuations that renewables bring in and balance them out. It will ultimately keep the lights on in their electorates.
The frustration in this place is that we end up having to fight to save people from themselves. Mining and agriculture are two industries that not only drive my electorate but kept this country afloat during the pandemic. They are the reason that Australia is as strong as it is. Australia has two things. Australia can produce food for itself and other nations around the world and it has the resources and cheap energy to make things. We’re having a battle now, where we have members from the leafy suburbs trying to close down the very things that create the wealth that generated the environments where they live. I stand up for the resources sector, and I was pleased to speak on this statement.