New Natural Resources Minister
In a first for NSW, there are 22 ministers on NSW Labor’s front bench and half of them are women. Among them are the first female Minister of Finance Upper House MP Courtney Houssos. Mrs Houssos is also the Minister for Natural Resources looking after the mining industry as well as land, waterways, reserves, parks and forests.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to be part of the newly formed Labor/Minns Ministry.
“I know I’m the first, but I certainly won’t be the last and I know there are lots and lots of women who are working right across the finance sector that would probably be surprised that we haven’t had a female Finance Minister prior to this,
“But when we look around at our cabinet it’s the first cabinet that’s 50/50 and this is just a reflection of the community that we are representing,” Mrs Houssos said.
NSW Labor hasn’t been shy about their support for the mining industry that injects billions of dollars into the state government’s coffers.
In the NSW Minerals Council’s most recent Expenditure Survey, the 27 mining companies that participated collectively pulled the NSW economy out of the hole created by the COVID-19 pandemic, injecting $16.7 billion into the economy in the last financial year.
The surveyed companies also spent over $93 million in community contributions and payments to local governments, and around $3.4 billion was paid in taxes to the NSW Government, including royalties.
Mrs Houssos said the incoming NSW Labor government knows how important the mining industry is right across the state.
“Mining is such a key contributor to the NSW economy and particularly across regional NSW, I grew up in Forster, and certainly I understand the importance of mining and in particular coal mining in the Hunter Valley and North-West, and those important jobs that it supports within those local communities.”
The new Natural Resources Minister was looking after the ministry when Labor was in the opposition and she knows just how crucial the next four years will be.
“The next four years are expected to be crucial in the mining and energy sector with one of the country’s oldest coal-fired power stations, the Liddell Power Station at Muswellbrook having just closed, the Eraring Power Station at Lake Macquarie shutting in 2025 and the Bayswater power station not long after that,” Ms Houssos said.
“It’s going to be a challenging time.
“The thing that is driving us is that we understand the pressure that families and businesses are under with rising electricity prices and that is the thing that is guiding us in the decisions we are making,
“At the moment coal accounts for about 73 per cent of NSW electricity generation so we understand the importance of coal in ensuring that the lights stay on for both families and households as well as businesses, but we are mindful we have to look towards the future which is why we announced during the election campaign that we would have a state-owned energy corporation that would look for energy opportunities.”
That $1 billion state-owned energy security corporation will drive investment in renewable energy projects to ultimately lower power prices across the state. The initial funding for the corporation was pledged to come from the existing Restart NSW fund and will partner with industry on projects including renewable storage like pumped hydro to provide grid stability.
The Eraring Power Station at Lake Macquarie is due to close in 2025, but the previous government was considering buying Origin out in a bid to keep it open longer.
The new Premier Chris Minns has always maintained everything is on the table when it comes to Eraring.
“As I said we have not ruled anything out in relation to Eraring, we are approaching this with a really open mind and I know that the Premier and the Treasurer who I am working closely with as the Minister of Finance, have had a number of briefings already on this issue, it’s something we’re watching closely.
“We know that these are difficult and big challenges for our economy, but we’re ready for it,” Mrs Houssos said.
“I’m really excited about the opportunities in the critical minerals and rare earth mines that we’re seeing start-up across the central west but also across the far west of NSW. There is a huge and growing sector and an important one because mining is so important in our state’s economy,
“We remain really firmly committed to the ambitious agenda and the fully funded agenda we took the election.
“We’re really excited, it’s an incredible privilege and an amazing opportunity for us to form a government so we don’t want to waste a minute of it,” Mrs Houssos said.