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Industry Matters - a column by Resource Industry Network (May 6, 2022)

Someone asked me this week how big Paget was on the world stage these days? That’s a really good question and one that fits into the messages we’ve been sending our local Federal Election candidates in recent weeks.

For some perspective, Mackay’s industrial precinct of Paget is roughly equivalent in size to the entire METS sector in Canada. The METS businesses located in this industrial estate are the reason why mining operations in the Bowen Basin are some of the most efficient and productive in the world.

But they also service a much broader market including agriculture, defence, and renewables. This has proven a key strength for METS SMEs in this region. Their ability to work across sectors, bring industry knowledge back to resources, and innovative accordingly has been critical in the evolution of Paget and its world-class standing.

With this in mind, I believe our METS community deserves clarity around a number of interconnected issues that will help them continue to deliver the innovation required to service these sectors into the future.

The conversations around decarbonisation have taken blurry path of late and businesses need transparency on the road forward when it comes to implementation, certification, and everything in between.

If businesses are to invest in this, government needs to put some skin in the game early in the piece, especially as we look at a move toward critical minerals for a low carbon future.

Innovation has slowed in recent times purely because businesses are wary about taking on 100% of the risk. But let’s be clear, they don’t want government to take on all of the risk, just a level of support that allows them to confidently get on with what they do best.

When we talk about needing information on decarbonisation and the road ahead in respect to innovation, this in turn brings another issue to the forefront. The skills needed to make this shift to a low carbon economy will be another challenge. There is set to be a whole generation of skills needed to be able to support this shift and I’m confident our sector has what it takes to help industry reach net zero emissions, but it depends on the government being very clear about what that framework looks like.

In the election race to date, there has been no commitment to:

  • Supporting innovation
  • Ensuring digital connectivity
  • Further support the MIW METS SME Export Hub
  • Reviewing research and development grants
  • Eliminating mobile blackspots in the regions
  • Digital infrastructure in line with Industry 4.0
  • Reduced pressure from insurance underwriters blacklisting our postcode because we service coal mines

On behalf of the region’s METS businesses, RIN is seeking clarity and commitment on all of these issues to maintain our strong standing as a sector and we invite local candidates to sit at the table and pledge funding that will help them move forward confidently.

For a region that is considered the “Silicon Valley” of the METS sector, we need to build on our capability and infrastructure to ensure we stay at the top of the tree.

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Resource Industry Network is the only not-for-profit member group representing the resource sector and allied industries within the Mackay region.

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