Doorstop - Tomago

Modern Manufacturing Initiative; Critical Minerals Processing and Resources Technology road map

Prime Minister Scott Morrison: Thank you very much Mark, it’s great to be here today, it’s great to be back in the Hunter. It’s tremendous to be here of course with Minister Andrews, and Senator Hughes and I want to thank them for the work they’re doing here on the ground.

Australia is leading the world out of the global COVID-19 recession. That’s what yesterday’s National Accounts confirmed once again. Growth of 3.1 per cent, over the course of the year, through the year only down 1.1. Now if I’d said that a year ago, the idea that the Australian economy would be down 1.1 per cent through the year that would have been absolutely devastating news and indeed the impact of that is certainly been felt here in Australia, that’s why we’ve provided such unprecedented support. But when you compare the impact of the economic shock of COVID-19 across the world and more importantly how we’re coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, then this is something that Australians have achieved in a remarkable way.

As a federal government, as a Commonwealth government, we've been very pleased to play our role in that comeback. It's certainly on. And as we move through the gears again, as we gear up the economy and we get into the next phase, it's an exciting time for Australia. Our economic recovery plan is not just about providing the immediate support - as we have over these many difficult months. It's also about the rebuilding that is going on now and the building for the future. Which is what you're seeing right here. In the Hunter, they're building the future on this site with lithium-ion batteries. When I think of all the regions of our country, it's very hard to consider a region that will benefit more from the economic policies we're putting in place than the Hunter.

When I reflect on my last few visits here to the Hunter, firstly, the gas-fired recovery and how we need to address the energy needs of this important sector - then to be here for the Joint Strike Fighters' maintenance program occurring over at Williamtown, and the defence industry that is being built here and expanded here in the Hunter. And to be back here again today to launch the Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing Plan Pathway, the priority roadmap for our manufacturing strategy, once again we find here in the Hunter those investors, those partners, whether they're in the CSIRO, the University of Newcastle, coming together to make the reality of manufacturing here in Australia for the future - just not for the present.

I've been here before looking at the skills development that is being done and the training that is occurring here under the programs we're putting in place, providing the workers for the places that we're standing on right now. As Mark was saying to us, when I asked him before - Why here, Mark? He talked about the skills. He talked about the university. He talked about the CSIRO. He talked about the partnerships. He talked about the opportunities. And here they are in the Hunter. And that's tremendously exciting to see that our manufacturing strategy that we set out in last year's budget - some $1.3 billion specifically going into these partnership grants that driven by these roadmaps developed up together with industry, will see critical areas like critical minerals processing, making the batteries that will power the world's economy into the future. And it's not a new issue for us. For some time now, our government has been working closely, whether it's been the United States or Japan or other parts of the world through our partnerships, about how we can fill in the supply chains around critical minerals and rare earths. It has been a keen topic of our national-level discussions. It is a sovereign and strategic priority for Australia to ensure that we are hard-wired into this supply chain around the world. And a supply chain that Australia and our partners can rely on. Because these rare earths and critical minerals is what literally pulls together the technology that we will be relying on into the future.

So, preserving the industrial base that has been so successful here in the Hunter, but also giving it a future through these types of initiatives. I'm going to ask Karen Andrews to make a few comments on that strategy in a second. But there are a couple of other matters I'm sure you understand that I need to address.

First of those is the AstraZeneca vaccine, as you know, has arrived in Australia. The Minister for Health announced that a few days ago. I can now tell you that the batch testing for the AstraZeneca vaccine that has arrived has been completed and it’s being distributed to the states and I understand that the first of those vaccines will be administered in South Australia tomorrow. That's welcome news. The next phase of the receipt of those vaccines that we were able to secure from overseas, supporting this first phase of this rollout of the vaccine rollout across the country. Let's not forget, though, that 50 million doses of the

AstraZeneca vaccine will be made right here in Australia, in Melbourne. And we took the decision to have the sovereign capability to do that because we did not want to be, over the course of our vaccination program in Australia, overly reliant or dependent on supply chains from somewhere else. So we did it here. We built it here. And we are one of the few countries in the world that have that capability. And so, while these initial doses of AstraZeneca that have come in from overseas have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and now batch-tested, will be rolled out. And that commences from tomorrow. What will follow that is, ultimately, the approval of the manufacturing process here in Australia for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will launch the next very significant phase of the home-grown vaccination of Australians for COVID-19.

Now the third point I need to address today is the press conference, statements made by the Attorney-General, Christian Porter, yesterday. These are harrowing events. And for the family of the woman at the centre of these issues, as the Attorney-General commenced his remarks yesterday, my heart can only break for anyone who has lost a child, and the issues surrounding that and the way that this matter is now being addressed in the public domain. This must be a harrowing time for her friends and for her family. And I don't want to do anything that would seek to add any further, any further difficulty for them. Christian Porter, the Attorney-General, has made it very clear in his statement yesterday that he has rejected absolutely the allegations that have been made. That is the same rejection that he made to me last week.

In this country, there is a lot at stake. If you don't go too far from here, you will find countries where the rule of law does not apply. And you will be aware of the terrible things that can happen in a country where the rule of law is not upheld and is not supported, in whatever the circumstances. The rule of law is essential for liberal democracies. And we weaken it at our great peril. And it can be hard at times. And I understand, particularly under these circumstances, it can be hard to understand just how important that principle is in how we deal with these, the most sensitive and the most traumatic and the most personal of issues. But we must reflect on that principle, because it is that principle that undergirds our democracy itself. The presumption of innocence. The investigation of allegations involving criminal activity by competent and authorised bodies. That is, the police. And to act in accordance with the decision of those bodies and, indeed, the courts that deal with any allegations that are taken forward for prosecution. That is our rule of law. It is something that every single citizen of this country depends upon - and that is the principle upon which I seek to support, to ensure the good governance of our country. And so, as traumatic as these events are, that principle must continue to guide us, and it will certainly continue to guide me and my government as we deal with these very sensitive issues.

On related matters, I can tell you that, earlier this week, we put in place new arms-length arrangements for additional support to be provided to people who work in the parliament. That is a counselling process and service that is available to people who find themselves in the situation needing that. That is a major change to the way this service was previously delivered by the Department of Finance. We've put those arrangements in place now. There are other inquiries when we’re, that I hope we'll be able to finalise with the opposition and other parties - the terms of inquiry on the other matter. I don't think we're too far away from that but I did not want to wait for those additional and more effective support services to be put in place as soon as possible, and they have been operating now for several days.

So I'm going to hand over to Karen now, if you could give us just that patience. I'm sure you'll want to return to those issues, and I'm happy to address them. But I'd ask, that at first, we deal with the announcement we've made today, and then I'll ask Mark and his team and they'll stand aside and then I'm happy to deal with the other matters. But, Karen?

Karen Andrews: Thank you, Prime Minister. And we are here today to release the National Manufacturing Roadmap for Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing, and to announce that funding for that program is now open. Now the Prime Minister announced a $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy in October last year. Some key parts of that were naming National Manufacturing Priorities for Australia. This is the first time that this has been named, ever, by a government. What we have determined are that there are some priorities for manufacturing here in Australia where we have comparative or competitive strengths. So, so far, we have released the roadmaps and opened funding for space, and also for medical products. So, today is the opening of funding for resources technology and critical minerals processing.

Now there are two streams of funding that are open for that today. The first one deals with the commercialisation of good ideas. Now this is not funding to come up with the good idea - this is funding it to commercialise that good idea. And that's exactly what we have seen here today with Energy Renaissance. They have worked very closely with the university, they've worked very closely with CSIRO, they're now at the stage that their product is commercialised, it's ready to be manufactured, and to be manufactured at scale right here in the Hunter. The second stream that is open today is the stream that will enable and support our businesses to be able to enter international supply chains. So, to become part of global supply chains for other countries right around the world.

In terms of resources technology and, specifically, critical minerals, Australia has a very long history of being a resource-rich nation where we have done extraordinarily well at digging that product out of the ground. The path that has been missed is the value-add. So, whilst we are very good at digging the product out of the ground, we ship it overseas, it's processed overseas in many instances, and we pay an extraordinary amount of money to purchase that material back in a different form, here in Australia. As a government, we want to change that - we want to do more of the value-add here in Australia. Resources technology is an area where we are already world-leading, but there are significant opportunities for us to expand that even more. To look at how we can recover more of our material from waste that exists. With critical minerals, we have an abundance of critical minerals here in Australia. We have incredible stores of lithium. At the moment, we aren't processing that to any great extent here in Australia. But we want to make sure that, through our critical minerals processing roadmap, that we are setting a pathway where Australia can recover the maximum amount of lithium, and that we can then look at how we can value-add to that and, specifically, looking at how we can build the battery industry right here in Australia.

So this is an enormous opportunity. The grant funding is open for the first round for four weeks. There's already been a high level of interest in this. There are three more priority areas to go. And we will be releasing those over the next few weeks. Thank you.

Prime Minister: So questions, if you have them, on the manufacturing initiative today, or the Hunter, for that matter?

Journalist: Prime minister, [inaudible] Port of Newcastle later on, [inaudible]?

Prime Minister: I want to ensure that the Newcastle Port can deliver all the services that this region needs for it to be successful. There are some processes currently underway. That are addressing those issues. The Treasurer announced those a little while back. I know they've been well received here. And I want to see those followed through. But let me be very clear about the outcome I want to see. Whether it's the port here in Newcastle or the port up in Townsville or wherever ports may be, I want to be able to, in Gladstone, I want these ports to be able to service the regions as fully and as competitively as is possible. That's what I want to see. I want to see the Port of Newcastle working for the Hunter, and I'll be working to that end.

Journalist: Does that mean you'll be imposing a federal solution to the ACCC action against New South Wales ports, or will you be cooperating with the New South Wales government on that?

Prime Minister: It means that I'm going to allow the process, obviously, that the Treasurer has instigated, to continue its process. And I would hope that it would achieve an outcome similar to what I've just outlined. But that's a matter for them - it's not for me to intervene in that process. But I'm just telling you, as a Prime Minister, and to the people of the Hunter, I know what's needed here. And that's a Port of Newcastle that works for the Hunter. Because when that happens, the Hunter's able to do more for Australia.

Journalist: Does that mean you're committing the government to resolve the issue around the compensations paid to New South Wales ports?

Prime Minister: It means the objective that I've set out.

Journalist: [Inaudible] gas plant [inaudible] BAE, what’s your vision for the Hunter in 10-12 years time [inaudible]?

Prime Minister: I'm standing on it. I want to see more of this. What I'm excited about when I come up here to the Hunter - I meant what I said. All the things we're doing. Whether it's in skills training, whether it's in energy, whether it's in supporting manufacturing, whether it's expanding our trade markets. I really can't nominate a region that would benefit more than the Hunter from all of these things. In so many ways, the Hunter is the model case. And I want to - if it works in the Hunter, I know it's going to work for Australia. And that's why I'm coming back so often. Because I'm seeing it work. I'm seeing the collaboration between universities, science agencies, investors. I'm seeing the passion, I'm seeing the commitment. And I'm just keen to ensure that I'm working with the Hunter to remove any obstacles that could be in their way, because I can assure you, a policy problem solved here in the Hunter means it's going to be a policy problem solved elsewhere in Australia. Because these are the regions that I particularly want to see go ahead into the future. And so, whether it's making lithium batteries or continuing to make aluminium, or the processing works that will occur here, or the training or the science exploration, the medical products - all of this, I want to see it happen. And I know if it's happening in the Hunter, I know it's happening in Australia.