PM boosts critical minerals and defence spending amid China threat – The Australian Financial Review

Scott Morrison has pledged $4.3 billion for a naval shipyard upgrade and will devote another $243 million towards the development of four critical minerals projects as he uses his first visit to Western Australia in nine months to further underwrite Australia’s sovereign capacity and defence capability.
Upon arrival on Tuesday, he announced a $4.3 billion upgrade of the Henderson shipyards in the form of the construction of a new dry dock. The aim will be to build bigger warships there as well as service and maintain visiting US Navy ships.
Scott Morrison at the Henderson naval base in WA. Getty
Mr Morrison also pledged more would be spent to upgrade the Stirling naval base, so it could house the future fleet of nuclear submarines.
He announced last week the government would construct a $10 billion submarine base in the east coast to enhance the operational capability of the subs, but said on Tuesday their home base would remain in Perth, where the Collins Class vessels are berthed.
“This is a recognition of the enormous expertise that is here in the west, along with the strategic reality of our region and the Indian Ocean,” he said.
“Recent announcements about the east coast submarine base are a critical
part of the puzzle in terms of our expanded national operating capacity, but here at Stirling and Fleet Base West are the heart of our navy and our submarine fleet, and we will be investing even more.”
China will also be front and centre when, in a speech to be delivered to a business breakfast on Wednesday, the Prime Minister will dip into the government’s $1.3 billion modern manufacturing initiative to help kickstart four critical minerals projects.
The funding includes $119 million for Pure Battery Technologies’ integrated nickel manganese cobalt battery material refinery hub near Kalgoorlie, and $49 million for Australian Vanadium’s $367 million project to process high-grade vanadium from Meekatharra.
Another $30 million will support Arafura Resources’ Nolans Project rare earth separation plant in the Northern Territory, the first in Australia and only the second out of China.
And there will be $45 million to help construct Alpha HPA’s high purity alumina production facility near Gladstone, to help meet the rapidly expanding demand for lithium-ion batteries and LED lights.
Mr Morrison said the four projects would create a combined 3400 jobs, and cement Australia’s place in the critical minerals, electric vehicle and battery markets.
They are also a critical element in the government’s plans to safeguard the supply chains of Australia and its allies after the COVID-19 pandemic and the deteriorating relationship with China exposed their fragility.
“Supply chains are no longer just about cost and efficiency. They’re about trust,” he said.
Industry Minister Angus Taylor said China dominated about 70 to 80 per cent of global critical minerals production and continued to consolidate its hold over these supply chains.
“This initiative is designed to address that dominance,” he said.
With at least two Coalition seats in WA – Pearce and Swan – in peril, and two more – Curtin and Hasluck – at risk, the Prime Minister will spend the remainder of the week in the west.
Closed borders have kept him out of the state since early last year when he dropped in on his way to the United Kingdom for a Group of Seven leaders meeting.
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