Statements by Senators- Mineral Exports, 20 March 2023
Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (13:48): The Labor and Greens coalition and the teal Independents are pushing a clean, green renewable energy fantasy that is going to bankrupt this nation. They will never be able to achieve their renewable goals of a rechargeable battery-powered economy, but what they are powering is child slavery. That’s because billions of lithium ion batteries required to store renewable energy cannot function without cobalt. The insatiable demand for cobalt has been a bonanza for China, which owns and controls most of the world’s cobalt mines, and many are located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unfortunately, in the rush to extract as much cobalt as possible, children are being sent into dark, dangerous mines that make the work conditions of Oliver Twist look like a Swiss finishing school. These kids work in subhuman conditions, with pickaxes and shovels, to scrounge out cobalt for a few bucks per day. The air is laden with toxic soot, the water is contaminated with toxic sludge, and the forests have been destroyed, all to feed the green energy delusions of wealthy Westerners.
Australia is one of the few countries that produce cobalt while respecting human rights, but we send it to China to be processed. We must stop doing this. Sure, it may be cheaper to do it there, but that’s only because they exploit their workers, they pollute the environment, and they have access to cheap power, which we do not. It is time that the government stops the hypocrisy and puts human rights and environmental protection ahead of cheap batteries, and it is time that we process our cobalt right here in Australia.