Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (12:49): I thank Senator Dean Smith, who is from that other great mining state of Western Australia, for explaining the provisions of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive) Bill 2017 in some detail. Also, I thank Senator Smith for the statistics that he was able to give to the chamber indicating the need for some encouragement to explore for minerals in our great country. I don't want to take a great deal of the Senate's time. I simply want to thank the government and congratulate the minister for introducing this new incentive.
Mining means so much to Australia, particularly Queensland and Western Australia. My state of Queensland, like Western Australia, has been developed on the back of our mining industries. Our mining industries have created huge employment opportunities for Queenslanders, for Western Australians and, indeed, for all Australians. But, over the years, there has been a slowdown in the exploration that's needed to find the mineral resources before we can actually start mining them and creating the jobs. I think it's almost 20 years since there's been a world-class mineral discovery in our country. I remember well the days of 'the Poseidon adventure', as I call it. That was the name of a movie, but the real Poseidon adventure was the discovery of nickel deposits in Western Australia which sparked a share boom and attracted a lot of mum and dad investors into putting money into minerals exploration. But there hasn't been a lot of exploration in recent years; the amount of exploration in our country has suffered substantially. Consequently, when we don't find the resources we can't develop them and create jobs.
Some time ago the coalition government did introduce a scheme to allow the flow-through of losses to shareholder investors in minerals exploration companies. It was a good idea at the time, but it hasn't really worked. Hence we have this new arrangement which I am hopeful will encourage Australians to invest their money in risk investments but with the hope of obtaining big rewards on the discovery of a mineral resource and its subsequent development.
The banks in Australia these days are very shy of any sort of support for mining companies and mining exploration. Because of that, we have to encourage the mum and dad investors and the superannuation funds to invest their equity in junior mining companies that can go out and survey the length and breadth of our vast country to try and find the sort of bonanza—the El Dorado, the Poseidon—that has made Australia great in the past. As a country, we have enormous mineral resources. We are of that age as a geographic entity that there are a lot of minerals somewhere beneath the ground. But what we've got to do is find them and then develop them. Unless we have people who are prepared to invest in that, it's going to be difficult.
This bill is simply about encouraging investors to invest in these junior exploration companies. That gives them the ability to wander throughout Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory looking for these minerals. We hope that some of that exploration will come to fruition and we will be able to establish new mining industries and, therefore, new jobs for Australians. To do that we have to encourage that investment. And by giving tax breaks to the mum-and-dad investors, and even the superannuation fund investors, who are prepared to take these risk investments, that may lead to a worthwhile result in the future.
I'm pleased to be able to support this bill. As a Queenslander, as someone from north Queensland who spends a lot of time out in the mining areas of the north and west of our state, I'm delighted that the government has heeded the call, many calls over a long period of time, for some assistance to encourage more investment in these junior explorers. I congratulate the minister and the government as a whole. I look forward to this particular bill playing a real part in finding and developing new discoveries of minerals in our country.