Heavyweights discuss resources, jobs, electricity at forum
CRITICAL issues for Gladstone and Central Queensland including mining jobs, electricity prices, renewable energy and inland rail were discussed at a forum by Federal Resources, Water and Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt yesterday.
The forum, arranged by Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd and LNP candidate for Gladstone Ron Harding, was held at the Oaks Grand Hotel Gladstone from 5.30pm.
Heavyweights of Gladstone business and industry including Mayor Matt Burnett, Gladstone Ports Corporation acting CEO Craig Walker, GPC chairman Peter Corones and McCosker Contracting managing director Bob McCosker, were among about 40 people who attended.
Mr O’Dowd opened the forum, detailing Australia’s valuable trade with China and the impact of a trade war, if it continued to erupt.
Minister Pitt told attendees about the record trade year Australia has just done, on the back of the resources and energy industries.
“We’ve just done a year of record for resources and energy in terms of our exports,” he said.
“Over $290 billion dollars worth and iron ore was the first Australian product to go through $100 billion dollars.
“Next year, the resources energy quarterly, our of the office of the Chief Economist in Canberra, has forecast that there will be a fall in our resources exports to just over $250 billion dollars.
“That will be still the third highest level of exports this country has ever achieved.”
Mr Pitt said the fact Australia was one of the most reliable exporters of resources and energy in the world had greatly helped export growth.
“We kept supply of gas, thermal coal and met coal to places like India, Japan, South Korea and China, and that has always been recognised as one of Australia’s strengths.”
Mr Harding said the mining industry provided 50,000 direct Queensland jobs and 320,000 jobs in associated industries across the state.
He said due to the global pandemic it was critical we supercharged the resources industry to provide more jobs and continued economic growth.
“It is crucial that we keep our mining industry alive,” he said.
“The LNP is going to put a freeze on the royalties we take, so what this is going to do it’s going to supercharge the industry and attract the people and create the jobs that we so desperately need throughout the mining industry.”
Industries struggling through the pandemic including travel agents and cinemas were identified by Mr O’Dowd, who encouraged everyone to patronise these essential, suffering businesses.
When the floor was opened to questions, prominent Gladstone electrician Ken Corfield asked whether it had taken the global pandemic to encourage the government to seriously look at the infrastructure we have.
“Why hasn’t a new power station been allocated for this city,” he asked.
Mr Corfield later also asked Minister Pitt why so much government funding was being wasted on an ‘emerging’ hydrogen industry, which was still being researched to determine its exact viability.
“I have engineers in London and I have correspondence from them about the hydrogen game for this state and I’ve been told it’s at least another 10 years away, at least,” he said.
“Why are we making people excited about a hydrogen industry that’s not even in our forecast for at least the next 10 years … when we’ve got other industries that are much, much more important in this state.”
Minister Pitt said billions of dollars of funding from last week’s budget was tied to ‘use it or lose it provisions’.
“The country simply cannot wait to get this work done,” he said.
“There is no further time to mess around with this stuff.
“This is the watershed point, it absolutely is.”
Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett asked a very timely question following last week’s budget, that could only bring benefits to Gladstone and CQ.
“As Minister for Northern Australia, can you help us bring the inland rail from Toowoomba into the port of Gladstone,” Cr Burnett asked Minister Pitt.
Mr Pitt advised Cr Burnett to put a case to the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund NAIF that met the eligibility criteria and it would be looked at.
“In terms of the inland rail, if there is a proponent that puts up a case, and it goes to the NAIF it meets the criteria, I’m very happy to look at it,” he said.
Mr McCosker questioned the actual price of electricity in Queensland, and how much was being collected by the State Government in taxes.
“There seems to be no appetite for anyone to actually tell the truth about what power costs,” Mr McCosker said.
The forum was told 30 per cent of electricity costs in Queensland went straight to the State Government, which presented an opportunity for instant savings.