Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Opposition Whip) (18:46): I thank the member for Hinkler for bringing this matter to the House’s attention, and I’m indebted to energy minister Chris Bowen for a moment of clarity a few weeks back when he informed us that by 2030 Australia would need to build 40 new seven-megawatts wind towers a month and install 22,500-megawatt PV panels a day—these are the ones about 1.6 metres square. Just for your information, Deputy Speaker, and in case anyone else is interested, that would be 25,000 acres of solar panels. It’s estimated that by 2025 95 per cent of PV panels produced in the world will come from China. Similarly, neodymium, a rare earth essential for the magnets that are used in wind towers—in the 40 wind towers we’re going to build a month in this country—and that rare earth market, like the PV market, is actually controlled by China at the moment. Our dependence on another country, one that is already operating trade sanctions against us, for the supply of photovoltaic cells, lithium batteries and other components should not be acceptable to this nation.
Australia has many of the raw materials that we need to provide sovereign capacity in these new industrial opportunities to get to a point of self-reliability. Our deposits of lithium, graphite, rare earths, copper, aluminium and nickel along with many others should be exploited, which leaves me astonished Labor’s first budget has cut $100 million from the Critical Minerals Strategy. It was a $200 million fund. Five hundred and fifty million dollars of that has already been invested, and the budget tells us that, instead of spending another $150 million, there will be only $50 million left in forward funding projects. That is a pretty heavy cut by any standards, and at a time when these opportunities are in front of us in the world. And not only opportunities; I think they are essential actions by government to control our destiny in front of us, and we need to move in a positive manner.
On the matter of lithium batteries, Australia has the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre. It’s based in Perth. It has proven lithium batteries are the best on offer in the world at the moment. But we don’t make them here in Australia, and that’s what the CRC is looking at. We can expect that market, with electric vehicles coming on, to expand exponentially. Lithium batteries are primarily made from graphite—that’s the major component—and then lithium, nickel, cobalt, alumina and a number of other rare earths. All of these are minerals Australia has. We have the potential to increase supply and not just increase supply but actually go into the further manufacturing.
I was delighted, in fact, that Renascor Resources scored a $200 million loan underwritten by the Critical Minerals Strategy for the development of Siviour graphite mine, which is near Arno Bay in my electorate—in fact, not very far from where I go to the beach, quite frankly. I lived in Arno Bay for a couple of years, even! That mine looks like it’s going ahead. I’m doubtful that it would have gone ahead without the Critical Minerals Strategy. I’m very pleased to have seen that happen. Others hoping for similar treatment from the fund, of course, are facing the fact that it has now been pretty severely cut.
We have a government that is spruiking Australia’s critical minerals future, our manufacturing industries and the potential to expand it, but they’ve cut the support for the critical minerals sector and preside over a 56 per cent increase in electricity costs while reducing support for the development of new gas supplies. All of those things are not leading to an increase in manufacturing; they are leading to a hit in the back of the neck to manufacturing. I deplore this decision by the government.