Speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce, Republic of Korea


Thank you for that warm welcome.

Thank you for the work you do here at AustCham. 

I'm a very big supporter of the work of Australia's internationally facing chambers of commerce. 

I think sometimes that work is under acknowledged and I certainly want to acknowledge it today in prompting not only Australia’s interest but the interests of trading relationships of mutual benefit for the countries involved. And I do recognise the work that AustCham is doing in Seoul.

And like the Ambassador, I also want to acknowledge the loss of Simon Crean. 

I know it’s deeply felt not only in Australia but in Korea and in many places. I knew Simon well and while I was very shocked to learn the news on the evening, I really wasn’t surprised to learn that when he died he was promoting Australia’s trading interests at the time on an overseas delegation. 

That’s what he loved and his loss is very deeply felt and I do know that it is very deeply felt not just in Australia but in places around the world, not most here in Korea.

Well as you know better than most, Australia and Korea have a relationship and trading history which is positive, deep and long. We will always be a reliable, stable and secure trading partner for Korea.

But in my view, we haven't yet reached our full potential. 

And just as energy has been key to our trading relationship to this point, new energy and the supply chain relationships are central to a deepened relationship that I believe is eminent. 

This opportunity is of course forged in the face of the climate emergency. 

And an emergency it is. 

We’re seeing it thick and fast as we speak.

In Europe, an intense heatwave is crippling cities.

In Italy, 23 cities were put on red alert with temperatures of up to 46 degrees Celsius.

Athens has battling wildfires.

In China, a new record as temperatures in Beijing stayed above 35 degrees for 28 days in a row. 

Records being smashed across the US, in Phoenix, a 49-year-old record was broken when temperatures reached 43.3 degrees or higher for a 19th consecutive day. 

And at the Persian Gulf International Airport in Iran, a temperature of 66.7 degrees was reached.

Of course, our own countries are also at the front line. 

The Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 burnt through 24 million hectares of bushland, or more than double the landmass of South Korea, with all the attendant loss of life and environment. 

Last year in Australia, seven out of ten people lived in an area that were declared natural disaster zones at some point, in many cases, more than once. 

In Korea, the devastating flooding of Daejon in 2020 and the 2022 event which saw the heaviest rainfall to hit Seoul in 115 years stand alongside heatwaves and droughts as clear and present impacts. 

The fact is that natural disasters are increasingly frequent and increasingly unnatural. 

And as Korea’s IPCC Chair Dr Hoesung Lee and his team recently confirmed, there’s a rapidly closing window for transformative climate action.

The fact is, to be frank, it’s too late to avoid the climate emergency.

But it’s not too late to avoid the worst of the climate emergency, if we act swiftly. 

And importantly, if we act in partnership. 

This is too big a task for any country, it’s a task that must be taken together.

The partnership with Korea in the face of this crisis has the benefit of creating energy security, and billions of dollars of investment and jobs. 

A couple of recent events underlined the importance and potential of Australian and Korean partnerships on renewable energy. It’s in no small part to why I am here.

The first was a briefing I received recently from a visiting high-level delegation from POSCO on their investment plans for renewable hydrogen and green iron ore in the Pilbara. 

The amount of proposed investment by POSCO and their partners is literally eye-watering. It is a vital project for POSCO's laudable decarbonisation plans. This and associated similar projects will create thousands of jobs in Australia's regions.

I know you join me in congratulating the Government of Western Australia for engaging so strongly and proactively with POSCO to make this investment happen.

The other came just last week. 

I travelled to Newcastle to declare a new offshore wind zone - vital part of plans to generate renewable energy to 82 per cent by 2030. The Hunter zone would generate 5,000 MW, enough to power for 4.2 million homes. 

I made the declaration at the Port of Newcastle. Currently the world’s biggest coal port, but one which is planning a massive transformation to be a renewable hub. 

And as part of this transformation, on the day I declared the zone there were 30 supporting partnerships and 15 MOUs being signed between the Port of Newcastle and investment partners, including Korean firm KEPCO and others.

And I’ve already met people here who I met last week in Newcastle.

So that’s why I’m here in Korea. 

To lock in and further this huge potential that’s so many Australian and Korean firms have already identified. 

So let me give you some of the Australian context. 

Our government recently marked a year in office.

A cornerstone of our economic agenda is action on climate and energy, backed by constructive engagement with our international partners.

A major focus of our first year was to build an enabling policy environment to drive our climate and energy priorities.

One of the first steps we took was to create policy certainty for business.

We did this by enshrining in law our new aour ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution of 43 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050.

This sends a message to rest of the world: Australia has changed, we are open for investment, we are a stable and welcomed environment for renewable investment. 

These targets place us in the same league as our key trading partners, including Korea. 

We also introduced a significant industrial decarbonisation policy, working with business to introduce reforms which put our biggest emitters on a path to net zero – known as the Safeguard Mechanism reforms.

These changes simply reflect the need to have a policy environment which ensures everyone does their fair share in the very necessary emissions reduction task, again in an environment in which Australia will remain a reliable supplier of energy, including LNG. 

We have coupled the Safeguard Mechanism changes with sensible decisions to ensure that businesses can be certain of their investment in Australia under the new framework.

Access to high-integrity offsets, which are readily available in our carbon market, to ensure obligations can be met where on-site abatement isn’t possible. 

The creation of Safeguard Mechanism Credits - which create an additional incentive for onsite abatement, through the generation of credits for those businesses which beat their baseline and also provide them another option for firms in the Safeguard Mechanism.

Access to funding for eligible businesses to support their emissions reduction task, including those industries which are both hard-to-abate and strategically important - such as steel, which will be critical to building the clean energy transition.

And with this policy in place, it will provide ongoing policy certainty and a clear framework for industry in the critical lead up to 2030 and beyond.

In transport, our new National Electric Vehicle Strategy has Australia poised to adopt a fuel efficiency standards, which will increase the supply and uptake of cleaner cars in Australia.

Whether they be the Hyundai IONIQ 6, the Kia EV6, or the Tesla Model 3.

In electricity, we’re upgrading and expanding Australia’s power grid with the help of our $20 billion Rewiring the Nation investment.

This will increase grid security, drive down power prices, and unlock new renewables.

It’s important in our plan to lift renewable energy to 82 per cent by 2030, as is our offshore wind plan, which I mentioned earlier. 

Korea is a couple of years ahead of Australia when it comes to offshore wind because we are a couple of years late to the party. But despite arriving late, we are catching up fast. 

This is what we have done so far. 

But there is an enormous amount left to do. 

Last week I announced the development of a new national net zero 2050 plan and the development of new sectoral decarbonisation plans for electricity and energy, agriculture and land, industry and the built environment, transport and resources. 

This approach has been built very much on feedback to me from investors that sector plans would be very helpful to them in developing their investment plans for Australia.  

Australia backing our energy future

Our government’s now committed more than $40 billion to deliver our energy transformation and climate priorities, as part of our commitment to become a global renewable energy superpower.

This is just a down payment on what is an ambitious, but practical agenda.

One that will require a substantial injection of private sector capital, including from Korea.

So, our work has only just started.

It’s in Australia’s interests, Korea’s interest, the interest’s of all like-minded countries to diversify our supply chain to renewable energy so we’re not dependent on one country. 

From Australia’s point of view, that means making more things in Australia and encouraging manufacturing in like-minded reliable trading partners as well. 

We take the view that we want Australia adding much more value to the critical minerals that we extract and adding that value before we export them.

But we also welcome other countries doing so as well, because the task of decarbonisation is so huge that we will all have to be involved. 

Hence, this week we announced a $50 million investment to support the development of secure and diversified clean energy supply chains in the Indo-Pacific region.

This contribution will support an initial round of studies to accelerate the development of projects in the region, which could include products and activities like solar ingots, wafer production and battery cell component manufacturing. 

We know that our climate targets cannot be achieved without accelerating the development and deployment of new energy sources and technologies.

We must find ways to decarbonise the iron and steel value chain.

To reduce risk and create certainty for industry through clear legal and regulatory frameworks.

I welcome President Yoon’s comments at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

President Yoon made it clear that new global supply chains, including for green hydrogen, were necessary to bolster energy security and achieve net zero and we couldn’t agree more.

Recent global events bring his call into stark relief.

Hardly had the world recovered from COVID-era supply chain disruptions when Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine caused new crises.

The world can no longer afford the weaponisation of energy. We know that security of energy supply is integral to national security for many countries.

The energy crunch affecting our region and the rest of the world was avoidable.

We just have to look for energy security in the right places.

Energy security from the sun and from wind is key.

No amount of geopolitical chicanery can stop these forces of nature.

Renewable energy, supported by storage and transmission, is secure energy.

And those right places to search include Australia. Australia is committed to being a long-term reliable energy partner for the ROK and for the world.

Australia is renewable energy rich.

We have some of the world’s best solar energy resources.

We have abundant win, onshore and offshore.

We’re also endowed with critical minerals such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, and graphite, used in the technologies that harness and store renewable energy.

While we are committed to remaining a trusted global supplier of these vital minerals, we are also keen to use them to add value on our home soil – particularly for clean energy components like batteries and hydrogen electrolysers.

Before exporting them as part of the global renewables supply chain.

I see Australia and Korea as natural partners in this process.

Our natural endowments make us an ideal partner to help Korea and other key regional partners, including in Southeast Asia, find solutions to their energy transition challenges.

We see Korea as a natural partner in this quest.

Korea is an industrial and technological powerhouse.

A country with manufacturing and technical expertise in technologies such as battery production and hydrogen mobility.

This makes Korea an ideal partner to help Australia achieve our ambitions.

Production of green hydrogen is a priority for Australia.

By 2050, Australia’s hydrogen industry could generate $50 billion in additional GDP.
It could create more 16,000 jobs.

Plus 13,000 jobs from the construction of renewable energy infrastructure to power the production of green hydrogen.

We’re also keen to draw on Korea’s expertise to build our hydrogen industry and help meet Korea’s huge demand for energy to power its manufacturing sector.

Australia and Korea are well placed to step up our clean energy cooperation.

And that’s exactly why I’m spending time here – time to move this partnership up another notch.
Now is the time to press the accelerator.

2030 is approaching fast. We need to move faster.

We need to explore further opportunities across the clean energy value chain.

I’m particularly keen to see our two countries advance discussion on opportunities to enhance bilateral cooperation on hydrogen, green steel and solar.

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to meeting with Minister Lee and at the heart of this discussion will be how our nations can use our existing strong partnership to capitalise on opportunities in the net zero economy.

In the spirit of President Yoon’s call, Australia and Korea can accelerate our cooperation to build new hydrogen supply chains.

Korea has made a clear commitment to increase the use of clean hydrogen, including establishing international supply chains for imports.

Australia can play a significant role in achieving that goal.

We have the space and natural resources to make cost-competitive hydrogen.

We’re already seeing growing interest in Australia playing host to projects, with projects worth up to $300 billion in the pipeline, including key Korean investments.

In 2022, over 100 green hydrogen, ammonia and green methanol projects were announced in Australia – more than double the number of projects announced in 2021.

This has contributed to around 40 per cent of all global hydrogen projects announced being Australian hydrogen projects.

And our government is backing the industry to succeed.

We recently announced a $2 billion investment in our Hydrogen Headstart program, we’re providing revenue support for large-scale projects to produce green hydrogen.

This funding builds on over half-a-billion dollars of investment by our government in regional hydrogen hubs, to drive further investments in this new industry.

As well we’re investing $38 million to create a Guarantee of Origin Scheme for the certification of low-emissions products, including hydrogen and its derivatives and renewable energy.

Australia is ready to be a serious international player, even more serious that we already are. But we need more investment.

We welcome Korean investment in Australian clean and renewable energy industries.

A strong hydrogen supply chain between our two nations can open new doors.

New opportunities to collaborate on using hydrogen to decrease emissions in steelmaking and establishing new, green iron supply chains.

While we work to build renewable energy industries in support of effective action, we will work effectively together delivering mutual prosperity and mutual achievement of our very similar goals.


So my key message as I conclude is this, Australia is open for business, open for your business.

My door is open – if you or businesses in your network can support clean energy cooperation between Australia and Korea, then I want to hear about it and I want to help you. 

That would be music to my ears.

Just like K-Pop to the many Australians who recently saw Blackpink perform in Sydney and Melbourne.

I look forward to many successful future collaborations, because we have so much to do. Thank you.