The resources sector has endorsed the introduction of Kooyong MP Josh Frydenberg as minister for resources, energy and Northern Australia, but has made its demands clear.
New prime minister Malcolm Turnbull appointed Frydenberg along with the rest of his Cabinet on Sunday.
“The Honourable Josh Frydenberg will be elevated to Cabinet as minister for resources, energy, and Northern Australia,” Turnbull announced, just six days after he overthrew Tony Abbott as PM.
The addition of Northern Australia to the portfolio is a clear move to use the resources sector to promote and develop the Northern Territory, along with the northern sectors of Queensland and Western Australia.
“Northern Australia is another key element of our agenda going forward,” Turnbull explained. “Josh Frydenberg is a powerful advocate. We have a great story to tell on Northern Australia.
“It is a region of immense opportunity. It needs a powerful advocate and there are few that can match Josh’s dynamism and passion for change and for the development of our nation.”
While his title is different, Frydenberg replaces Ian Macfarlane, who was listed under Tony Abbott as the minister for industry and science.
Macfarlane reportedly supported Abbott in the leadership spill on September 14, and has been left out of the Turnbull Cabinet.
“Ian Macfarlane is one of my very, very best friends in this place,” Turnbull said on Sunday. “[He] understood the need to renew, and [he] gave me … the opportunity for [him] to stand aside so that I could bring new talent into the Ministry.”
Industry members have so far welcomed the addition of Frydenberg as resources and energy minister.
“APPEA looks forward to working with the Turnbull Government, in particular the treasurer, the Hon Scott Morrison, and the minister for resources and energy, the Hon Josh Frydenberg,” Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association chief executive Malcolm Roberts said.
Morrison was promoted to treasurer after Joe Hockey – a key cog in the Abbott Ministry, and its downfall – removed himself from the running when Turnbull was selecting his new Cabinet last week.
“APPEA congratulates all ministers on their appointments,” Roberts continued, before urging the new ministry to focus on promoting Australia’s energy and resources sector at an important time.
“Reforms to lift productivity and cut regulatory costs are essential,” he said.
“With Australia poised to become the world’s leading LNG exporter, we have a tremendous opportunity to convert our national gas resources into long-term prosperity.”
Frydenberg was also given a ringing endorsement by former resources minister Martin Ferguson, who is now on the board of gas business BG Group, and chairs APPEA.
“Josh has always taken an interest in the industry and whenever APPEA met in Canberra, he always attended and spoke openly about his endeavours, as minister responsible for reducing the regulatory burden, about his commitment to doing something for the industry,” Ferguson was quoted as saying in The Australian.
But other than welcoming Frydenberg, the industry’s position has been clear: changes need to be made if the resources sector is to contribute to the economy the way the government wants it to.
BHP Billiton coal president Mike Henry, shortly prior to the Cabinet announcement, spoke to the American Chamber of commerce lunch.
Henry said while the Australian coal industry has been working hard to improve productivity and reduce costs, more needs to be done to restore the sector to strong profitability.
“The coal industry is an important part of the Australian economy and it has been for more than 170 years,” Henry said.
“We can only hope to secure balanced support for the industry if we step up and help improve the quality of debate and the depth of understanding about what we do, why we do it, and how important it is.
“We are confident that we and others in the industry can rise to this challenge, particularly when supported by the right regulatory reform.”