Morrison's China stance threatens resources sector: Albanese

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Labor leader Anthony Albanese says Australia needs "more strategy and less politics" when it comes to managing the China relationship, warning the Morrison government's current approach poses a threat to the nation's resources sector.

In a speech to a Minerals Council of Australia event to be delivered on Wednesday, Mr Albanese will accuse Prime Minister Scott Morrison of prioritising domestic political wins over the national interest as it deals with China's rise.

The federal government's actions must be of "real concern" to Australia's minerals companies and exporters which rely on the China market, according to the Opposition Leader.

"Scott Morrison has no long-term strategy to deal with a changing China that is pressing its interests more assertively, while finding areas of potential co-operation, including on trade, that are in both our countries' interests," Mr Albanese will say in the speech, according to a draft supplied to ACM.

"Mr Morrison is making the grave error of prioritising his domestic political interests over Australia's national interests.

"Australia needs more strategy and less politics when it comes to managing our differences with China."

Mr Albanese will warn against commentary about the prospects of war, singling out Defence Minister Peter Dutton and making a veiled reference to Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo's now infamous "drums of war" address.

"[Those] recent comments .. might well inflame nationalistic sentiments and secure a grab the six o'clock news," he will say.

"But foreign policy is not a game. It's not a photo op. It's a serious business with profound security and economic implications."

The Opposition Leader will use the address to an audience of the nation's biggest miners to again outline his vision to transition Australia to a low-carbon economy.

Mr Albanese will set out his ambition to harness the rise of renewables to reinvent Australia's manufacturing sector. As the world's biggest producer of lithium, he will argue Australia could create a domestic battery manufacturing industry at a time of increased global demand for the product.

A domestic battery sector is the type of enterprise which could be supported by the $15 billion manufacturing fund Labor plans to create if it wins the next election, Mr Albanese will say.

"As Australia moves out of the pandemic, we move toward a future filled with possibility," he will say.

"There are some real opportunities which, if taken, will allow us to build back stronger and create a great future for ourselves and the generations that will follow us."

The address follows another fracturing within Labor caucus on climate and energy policy - this time over support for plans to develop the Beetaloo Basin gas field in the NT.

The basin is one of five gas fields the Commonwealth plans to open up to support exports and manufacturing.

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It sits over the Cambrian Limestone Aquifer which has some of the best fresh water in a region that is dependent on groundwater, like much of the NT.

The Morrison government is tipping in $50 million for companies who want to drill into the basin, which it expects will drive $150 million of private investment.

The Labor caucus on Tuesday voted not to support a motion being promoted by independent MP Zali Steggall to disallow the funding.

Ms Steggall argues the funding is an irresponsible use of public money at a time when the rest of the world is phasing out fossil fuels.

She was backed during the caucus debate by Victorian Labor MPs Libby Coker and Ged Kearney, who argued their voters do not support hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and Labor should take a strong stance against non-conventional gas development.

However, Labor resources spokeswoman Madeleine King said Ms Steggall's motion should be opposed.

It is understood former leader Bill Shorten, Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon and Northern Territory MP Warren Snowdon also spoke against Ms Steggall's motion, citing the need for gas as a transition fuel to renewables and arguing not all Indigenous groups in the NT were opposed to fracking.

  • with AAP

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This story Morrison's China stance a threat to resources sector: Albanese first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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