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‘We need to be more self-sufficient’: Caroline Kennedy backs in PM Anthony Albanese’s Made in Australia agenda

Simone Grogan
The Nightly
US Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy has visited WA.
US Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy has visited WA. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy has backed Anthony Albanese’s manufacturing push as a move she says will help make Australian mining more resilient, following her recent warning the sector was “under assault” from international competition.

“I really commend the Prime Minister and the Government for pushing this agenda forward,” the diplomat and daughter of late US President John F. Kennedy told The Nightly on Friday.

The ambassador is at the end of a jam-packed visit to WA from her usual station in Canberra, after making an eight-day journey to Perth in a $1500 Ford Falcon to raise money for cancer research.

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Her arrival came shortly after Mr Albanese presented his election centrepiece, Future Made in Australia, to mixed reviews from economists and fellow politicians.

While finer details of the policy are yet to be revealed, the thrust indicates that the Government will be coughing up incentives to grow manufacturing efforts in Australia.

It comes as part of a broader bid to keep Australia relevant in the global critical minerals race, where competitors like China and Indonesia have built up capabilities to churn out and sell refined nickel, lithium and rare earths, while Australia still largely relies on digging and exporting.

Mining companies have been lobbying for tax credits and other incentives from the Government to help with the high costs that comes with building new refineries.

Ms Kennedy was broadly supportive of the Government’s goal when asked if Australia was doing enough to keep its mining industry competitive.

“Everybody is trying to shore up their own economies and invest to upgrade their manufacturing capability, Australia in particular, because you have this abundance of natural resources that is unparalleled in the world. You’ve been able to rely on that,” she said.

“And now ... COVID taught us all that we need to be more self-sufficient, resilient, and work with trusted partners. So I think this Made in Australia agenda will really help.”

The new policy riffs off the US’ own Inflation Reduction Act, which has purportedly driven investment of about $US5 billion ($7.7b) into Australian companies since it was launched in 2022.

Ms Kennedy has also said during her WA trip that there was “much more coming” in terms of US support, including offtakes between US automakers and mining companies.

Last week, the diplomat dished out some strong comments regarding Australia’s mineral wealth, which she said was “under assault”, in a speech at a critical minerals conference.

“We can’t let vulnerable communities be destroyed, and the markets for Australian minerals, under the guise of economic development,” she said, after referring to “unchecked exploitation by state-owned Chinese companies in Indonesia and elsewhere”.

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