Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese has promised to provide $100 million in funding for a battery manufacturing precinct in regional Queensland if Labor were to form government.
Announcing the ‘Australian Made Battery plan’ from the Queensland industrial hub of Gladstone, Albanese said local battery manufacturing would help new Australian industries to ‘value-add’ resources of critical and rare earth minerals.
It could also be a gateway to the revitalisation of Australian car manufacturing, Albanese said.
“The resources sector has been the backbone of the Australian economy for decades. Developing Australia’s battery manufacturing capability is a step towards the potential for domestic electric vehicle manufacture,” Albanese said.
“Labor will create a Future Made in Australia. Australia should be a renewable energy powerhouse, not just a raw materials supermarket.”
In addition to the $100 million equity investment, Albanese said that federal Labor would support the creation of a ‘Powering Australia Industry Growth Centre’ to provide training and skills development for local battery manufacturers.
Albanese said Labor would also support 10,000 new apprenticeships in ‘new energy’ industries, with around 2,000 to be created in Queensland.
Albanese also committed to preparing a National Battery Strategy to guide future federal government policy.
“For too long, Australians have wondered why we haven’t manufactured batteries onshore when we have one of the world’s largest deposits of critical minerals and rare earths,” Albanese said in a statement.
“We can shore up our electricity grid with safe, reliable and sustainable energy that’s Australian from top to bottom – and then we can sell those batteries to the world,”
“We have a unique opportunity to make Australia a world leader in a future industry that will create good jobs for generations.”
“There are an estimated 34,700 jobs and $7.4 billion in value to be made in Australia from battery technology and industries. Labor will build a better future for Australia, one which capitalises on these opportunities,” he added.
Analysis commissioned by the Western Australian state government found that the local processing of battery materials, and the manufacture of batteries and components, could allow Australia to secure a considerably larger share of the growing battery market, than can be achieved by exporting unprocessed raw materials alone.
At Labor’s election campaign launch in Perth, Albanese committed a future Labor government to create a $1 billion value-adding fund, to support the local processing of raw battery materials in Western Australia.
The latest policy commitment is designed to seize on the opportunities for Australia to establish itself as a global supplier of battery technologies, and to illustrate how Labor would support towns like Gladstone that have historically been dependent on fossil fuel industries.
“In Australia, we have the people, skills and resources to make batteries right here. We have resources like with them, copper, nickel, all we do is we send those resources offshore,” Albanese told media in Gladstone.
“We see the value added somewhere else, and then imported back once the value has been added. It makes far more sense to use those resources and make things here, and that is certainly possible.”
Queensland energy minister Mick de Brenni said the state government would support the creation of battery manufacturing ventures in the state through the introduction of local content obligations for state-owned storage projects.
“Queensland’s publicly-owned power companies are already investing in more than 430MW of batteries with more to come,” de Brenni said.
“Battery storage will be key to the expansion of clean energy, by storing unused renewables for dispatch at peak periods, putting downwards pressure on prices.
“Our Buy Queensland procurement approach will require these sort of grid batteries to be sourced locally in Queensland, creating a pipeline of demand for new manufacturers which means more jobs in regional Queensland.”
Advocacy group Solar Citizens said the proposed investment would bring economic opportunities to regional Queensland.
“With the right planning and investment, Regional Queensland will have a bright economic future making clean technology and renewable hydrogen to power cities here and overseas,”Solar Citizens energy strategist Stephanie Gray said.
Michael Mazengarb is a Sydney-based reporter with RenewEconomy, writing on climate change, clean energy, electric vehicles and politics. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in climate and energy policy for more than a decade.