Nickel and batteries are vital strategic industries


When Australia’s car manufacturing industry collapsed on the watch of the Abbott government, Australia lost tens of thousands of skilled jobs and a vital strategic industry.

While our streets are a long way from resembling those of Cuba, with no capacity to make cars in Australia, the inflated prices we paid for second-hand cars during COVID showed us how vulnerable we have become to conflict, pandemic or some other black swan event disrupting our trade routes.

The potential collapse of Australia’s nickel industry is another sliding-door moment for our economy. Not only will we see immediate job losses, we’ll lose any hope of manufacturing lithium-ion batteries in the future. And, in the era of electrification, if we don’t manufacture batteries here, we’ll increase our vulnerability to supply chain disruptions. It won’t matter that we produce the other critical minerals batteries require - they will be all dug up, with nowhere to go.

Getting Australia off fossil fuels isn’t going to be cheap, whether we’re building new transmission lines for renewables, installing nuclear reactors, supporting emerging technologies like hydrogen or securing sovereign production capacity of critical minerals like nickel. But it’s a job that needs doing.

Kudos to Premier Roger Cook and the WA Government for stepping up with royalty relief for nickel producers. We now need Anthony Albanese and the Commonwealth Government to do for nickel production and future battery manufacturing, what Tony Abbott failed to do for our car industry.

This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.


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