Australia’s abundant supply of vital minerals, including lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements, has attracted the attention of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), which is proposing a new tax on exports of critical raw metals.
A motion supporting national refining, processing and component manufacturing from critical minerals will be tabled at the upcoming Australian Labor Party (ALP) national convention.
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton argues that Australia’s current approach to exporting raw minerals to China is in the national interest.
It suggests the country needs a punitive tax on exports of critical raw minerals and use the revenue collected to subsidize the manufacture and processing of these minerals on land.
“Australia is blessed with one of the world’s enviable supplies of vital minerals, but digging up these precious materials and loading them onto ships is an incredibly limited way of looking at the opportunity,” he said.
Walton argued that Australia’s reliance on China to process and return exported components and goods is becoming increasingly unreliable, suggesting that China may be reluctant to sell to Australia which is capable of making batteries. There are essential minerals for which Australia competes with China.
“…if Australia wants to make batteries to compete with China, do we think China will be happy to continue selling us the parts we need?” Said.
“Do we really want to believe that we can dig up vital minerals and send them to China for processing, and China will continue to send them to make batteries? – that is not a condition I would feel safe in,” They said.
The AWU advocates for Australia to take a more proactive approach to processing important minerals rather than relying on China to do so.
Walton argues that if Australia simply continues to “rule the market”, China will become the only country in the region with the sovereign ability to transform these materials into useful products.
He said Australia could follow the lead of the United States, which is forcing investment in its manufacturing capacity, using subsidies and other economic measures to give the country more control over raw material processing.
While Australia may not have the same economic clout as the US, it holds a large proportion of the world’s important minerals, which can be harnessed through regulations that encourage domestic processing of these minerals.
Walton said, “This is our leverage and we would be absolutely foolish not to use it.”
“We know the world’s demand for our vital minerals is astronomical, we have the power to make the rules under which they can obtain them, and the Treasury doesn’t have access to enough carrots to encourage the change we need here.” is for,” he said.