Address to the WA Local Government Association convention

*Check against delivery*

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge the Whadjuk Nyoongar people – the First Nations people and traditional custodians of the lands we are meeting on today.

I pay my deep respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

And I acknowledge and pay my respects to all First Nations peoples who are taking part in this important event.

Thank you Di Carmody from the ABC for your introduction and thank you Ben Harvey from The West Australian for acting as MC today.

I would also like to acknowledge:

  • My colleague the Hon Patrick Gorman MP


  • Mr Vasyl Myroshnychenko, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Australia.

I can see there are a large number of dignitaries here and I thank you all for coming today.

Good morning.

And thank you for having me at the West Australian Local Government Association Convention for 2022.

It is such a pleasure to be here in my home state, to speak to you today as the Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia in the new Albanese Government.

It’s been an incredibly busy time since we came to office.

You asked me here today to speak on The State of Play.

Well – I can tell you, the state of play is live and dynamic.

It will be challenging, but it’s also incredibly exciting.

Together we stand to deliver potentially the most far reaching and comprehensive revolution in Australia’s economic and social landscape since Federation.

Before us – are the perfect alchemy of elements – that promise all Australians enormous opportunities, now and into the future.

The theme of your convention: Embracing Change - is perfect for these times.

For we are on the cusp of a transformative national policy agenda.

This agenda will position Australia at the forefront of the economic and social imperatives of the next century.

An agenda that I will outline broadly to you today – built on four pillars:

  • climate change action, including decarbonisation of the economy
  • resource, energy and manufacturing capability, including renewables
  • regional development and growth
  • and empowerment and partnership with First Nations Australians.

Combined, these pillars will deliver a quantum leap for Australia and Australians.

Local Government – our trusted partners

It makes me very proud to stand before a group of Western Australians who are such dedicated servants of our community.

We all know that it is Local Government that sits closest to the people.

This makes you an important asset for those of us in the national government, as genuine partners in delivering the best policy outcomes for Australians.

My colleagues Minister Catherine King and Minister Kristy McBain both have Local Government in their remits – having two Federal Ministers (one in Cabinet) with carriage of local government issues indicates the importance to this Federal Government of your input and partnership.

There will be critical conversations between all levels of government. Not only to ensure the best use of our land, water, energy and infrastructure assets, but also to bring our health care, services, housing, education and training infrastructure up to standard across the whole country.

If we want to get things right for Australians, we need you at the table.

First Nations peoples: respect and partnership

We can’t create meaningful growth without shared vision.

Having Australia’s First Nations peoples at the table alongside us is also fundamental – again as genuine and equal partners in the discussions and decisions we make.

I simply say this - we must ensure all Western Australians have access to the benefits of development, including from the biggest resource projects.

Across WA, there are over 12,000 First Nations people living in remote communities, especially in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Goldfields and Mid-West Gascoyne.

Huge wealth has historically been generated for our country from resources over which First Nations people have original and primary custodianship – and too often First Nations peoples have not shared in the benefits.

Worse, our Indigenous sisters and brothers have also paid the terrible price of the loss of sacred cultural sites.

There must never be another Juukan Gorge disaster.

I am working alongside my colleague, the Hon Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, to ensure proper representation of First Nations peoples in every aspect of Australia’s social, economic and political spheres.

In fact, I want to ensure First Nations voices and opportunities for First Nations communities, are at the heart of northern development.

There will be genuine partnership with the Northern Australia Indigenous Reference Group, which includes two representatives from Western Australia – Cara Peek, lawyer and founder of Saltwater Country, and Peter Jeffries, Chief Executive Officer at Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation.

And of course, the Albanese Government has committed to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full and is already taking steps to constitutionally enshrine a Voice to Parliament.

We believe that a Voice to Parliament will ensure all government decisions are informed by First Nations peoples’ views, and will set the foundation for stronger and more lasting relationships with First Nations Australians.

I was pleased to see that this Convention includes a concurrent Aboriginal Engagement and Reconciliation Forum in Perth.

I encourage you all to play a leadership role in ensuring the Voice to Parliament campaign is a successful one, given your close connections to residents, landholders and communities right across Western Australia.

More than twenty Local Government Authorities in WA have now created Reconciliation Action Plans, including – I am very proud to say – the cities of Rockingham and Kwinana.  All local governments should build on this leadership and become part of the national discussion on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

Energy – Resources – Decarbonisation: the nexus for change and growth

We all know that Western Australia is a mining, tourism, energy and agricultural powerhouse, and many of you here today - Mayors and CEOs - would of course be dealing with businesses in these fields regularly.

As Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia, many of these businesses and these industries are also my key stakeholders.

As well as working to support economic and social development across Northern Australia, it’s my duty to work across WA and the nation to maximise how our resources sector services our economy, and our nation.

This means it is my job to ensure that we have the resources we need, in the form we need them, available for generations to come.

This means having the raw materials to build things, to drive our own manufacturing renaissance, to supply our international markets, to power our future, to make our houses and machinery and tools and batteries and submarines and railways and trains and cars and wind turbines, our bridges and out roads and our chemicals and fertilisers and medical equipment.

Resources are the source material for Australia’s future. A future that has decarbonisation and renewables at its forefront.

And in fact, I know that WALGA has been on the front foot in this transformation.

With commitments such as your Sustainable Energy Project, your Urban Canopy Project, the fact that 50 LGAs in WA – around 80% of the state - have signed Climate Change Declarations, and your initiative to take the lead on Electric Vehicle transition.

I congratulate you on your forward thinking.

The Australian Government has committed to a 43 per cent emissions target – a step that has been delayed far too long.

Since being appointed Minister, I have sought to remind everyone that without Western Australia’s resources sector, the world cannot achieve net zero.

When we think of the Net Zero goal – we must think of critical minerals. Our critical minerals will provide the necessary raw materials for our batteries, for our wind turbines, for our electric vehicles and a host of medical, defence and aerospace technologies.

Western Australia is fortunate to possess vast reserves of these critical minerals – they will be central to jobs and investment in our regions, including in Northern Australia.

And for the first time, contrary to misleading messages of the past - we can start to have a real sense of the huge opportunities decarbonisation action will open up for the whole country.

But particularly for communities in the West and the North.

Our government will establish the Powering the Regions Fund to support industry to decarbonise, keeping Australian industry competitive in a changing global economy, and ensuring our regions thrive.

With almost 200 mining and resource sites across WA, this is particularly salient for our state – and indeed local governments are in the position to play a central role in supporting industry to achieve the net zero target, whilst growing the sector in new and diverse ways.

WA is also a key region for energy investment to lead in emerging industries like green hydrogen. Green hydrogen along with critical minerals processing are two elements that will play a key role in the nation’s future energy security and in our sovereign manufacturing capability.

Indeed, in areas such as Kwinana in my electorate, Woodside is investing $1 billion in a hydrogen and ammonia plant and BP is creating a green hydrogen hub.

This is in addition to Tianqi’s lithium processing plant and of course there’s BHP’s Nickel West refinery, which puts a little bit of Kwinana in all our phone batteries.

These are transformative new energy projects rightly welcomed by the City of Kwinana because that local government understands the critical importance of these industries to the local economy.

Getting the skills we need where we need them

Councillors, nation-building needs natural resources and energy.

And it also needs people.

I know that many of your council areas, like many places post-COVID, face a shortage of workers with skills in the places where we need them.

This is not just mining, of course, the challenge of attracting and retaining skilled workers is being felt everywhere – health, transport and education and particularly in seasonal industries like agricultural, hospitality and tourism.

And we know that outer suburban councils to the south, east and north have their own challenges, places like Rockingham and Armadale – where rapid growth puts increasing pressure of infrastructure, from roads and housing, and there are growing expectations that Local Government will find solutions to GP shortages, childcare, aged care and business supports.

In these areas Local Governments have increasingly had to do more with less.

Regions with extractive industries are also highly reliant on a FIFO workforce, and there is a flow-on effect for community liveability and amenity. These are matters that we will manage collectively.

One way of addressing skills shortages is by getting more women into the mining workforce.

This means we must ensure a safe and inclusive working environment.

The mining sector employs close to 52,000 women, the largest number in its history, making up 18.9 per cent of the mining workforce. But we need to do better.

I was appalled and shocked by the findings of the WA Parliamentary Inquiry into Sexual harassment against women in the FIFO Mining industry. We must not shy away from this, but face it head on.

The WA Government has outlined a wide range of actions to tackle sexual assault and sexual harassment in Western Australian workplaces in response to the Parliamentary inquiry into the FIFO mining industry.

I look forward to seeing the impact of these changes and will continue to be a vocal proponent at the Federal level of women and women’s rights in the FIFO mining industry.

Regarding skills, the Federal Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit in Canberra recently looked at how we can address these issues on a national level.

We must make training more accessible so people who want to work in skilled industries, can do so.

There were several important initiatives that came out of the Jobs and Skills summit to target skills shortages, including an additional $1 billion in Federal-State funding for fee-free TAFE, the accelerated delivery of 465,000 fee-free TAFE places and an increase in the permanent Migration Program ceiling to 195,000 in 2022-23.

Linda Scott, President of the Australian Local Government Association, was an important voice at the table.

I was very pleased to be able to bring informed insights from my discussions with key stakeholders at roundtables I have hosted in Brisbane, Perth, Karratha and Kwinana.

Peter Long, Mayor of the City of Karratha, was there at the Karratha Roundtable. I trust Peter is here today, and I hope he is again as vocal and insightful as he was in the roundtable session.

Peter has been helpful in highlighting the challenges around housing in Karratha and I would again point out some of the outcomes of the Jobs and Skills summit going to these issues – including the initiatives to introduce more flexibility to the National Housing Infrastructure Facility and releasing $515m to invest in social and affordable housing.

It’s critical that we talk about social infrastructure in the same breath as jobs and skills and workers.

I am very aware from conversations with people like yourselves of the dire need for housing in many parts of Western Australia, especially in the North and for First Nations communities.

We will need to work together to remove this barrier to further development or expansion of any industry.


As I said at the start of these remarks, you asked me here today to speak on The State of Play.

Well – you can see the state of play – the stage is set.

Together we stand to deliver potentially the most far reaching and comprehensive revolution in Australia’s economic and social landscape since Federation.

Before us – the perfect alchemy of elements.

We see the energy imperative intersecting with our scientific climate change imperative.

There is the vast resource that is our Northern Australian territory – including Western Australia - with the natural resources that will help power our decarbonised future.

Local governments and the regional, rural and remote communities will be key on-the-ground partners.

Local governments in suburban areas will support many of the workers and their families that are the workforce behind this ambition.

And right at the heart of it, First Nations communities who can and will benefit enormously from the economic surge from new energy industries, and the new manufacturing capability – and who can share their knowledge, wisdom and cultural practices over the land – to help us ensure true sustainability.

As I’ve said before, policy is not only made at the national level. You make it.

And we want your help to implement a truly whole-of-government approach – and to realise an inclusive, collaborative and contemporary vision for Australia – to benefit all Australians now and into the future.

Thank you.