PM confident reconstruction fund bill will pass

Brandon How

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has told Parliament he is confident the National Reconstruction Fund bill will pass, describing the landmark reform as “one of the biggest ever investments in Australian manufacturing capacity”.

In a speech on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said he is “confident that there are enough people who are sensible [and] of goodwill in this Parliament, in the House and in the Senate to ensure that this fund is established”.

He urged the Opposition to “redeem” itself by supporting the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF), referencing the demise of car manufacturers during the Coalition’s time in office.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

Responding to the Prime Minister’s call to action, former Nationals Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack reiterated the Coalition’s concerns that the fund would be captured by the interests of Unions.

On Monday, the Greens reiterated their position that they would only support the NRF if it would be banned from supporting new oil and gas projects, or associated infrastructure.

Greens industry spokesperson Senator Penny Allman-Payne said the party continues to negotiate in good faith with the Albanese government.

“In the previous parliament, the coalition government sought to use the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to fund coal and gas, and they were unable to do so because of the guardrails that Labor and the Greens put in place. We are simply asking the government to do the same thing,” she told reporters.

Greens Leader Adam Bandt added that continuing to open new coal and gas mines would “shift the burden on to sunrise industries like aluminium and steel and lithium, that should have a future in the clean economy,” which would have a reduced carbon budget.

However, in a speech to the Australian Financial Review Business Summit 2023 the Prime Minister noted that natural gas “has a key role to play” in supporting the transition to renewables.

“The work of transition will require massive investment in building new physical assets and modifying existing ones. This is where gas in particular has a key role to play, as a flexible source of energy – providing peaking power today and continuing to provide firming power,” he said.

“Helping to smooth the transition to renewables, while guaranteeing energy security both for Australia and for our partners in the region.”

Following his address, he added that “being straight, gas will play a role in renewables”, highlighting that companies will need the firming of gas in the transition to renewables and hydrogen.

Speaking on the NRF bill ahead of question time on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said the fund is central to the government’s economic plan, as well as securing national security through economic sovereignty.

“[China] accounts for 85 per cent of the world’s solar panels and that will grow to over 90 per cent over the next decade unless countries make the conscious decision to defend their sovereignty going forward by supporting industrial growth here in these areas,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the NRF is equally important for the growth of new industries, noting that the death of the Australian car industry “gutted innovation and it had a multiplier impact in a loss of economic activity”.

Earlier in the day on Tuesday, the Prime Minister told the Australian Financial Review Business Summit 2023 that the government’s goal is to ensure Australia is an exporter of “technology and services, mining equipment, software and systems expertise, training and skills”.

He named value-adding products made in Australia like batteries, solar panels, electrolysers and green metals as a particular focus for the country.

“Securing the next generation of Australian prosperity depends on making the right investments in our workforce, our infrastructure, our productivity and innovation. Because the world isn’t waiting for us. And doing things the way we’ve always done them before, just because that’s the way they’ve always been done, doesn’t ensure stability – it only guarantees decline,” the Prime Minister added.

The Prime Minister will travel to India for the three-day Australia-India Annual Leaders’ Summit, which kicks of on Wednesday. Increasing technology and renewable energy collaboration will be among the priorities discussed.

A delegation of 25 chief executives and business leaders will also be travelling alongside the Trade and Tourism minister Don Farrell and Resources minister Madeleine King.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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