The sustainability sector's thoughts on a 'future made in Australia'

By Carolyn Jackson
Monday, 15 April, 2024

The sustainability sector's thoughts on a 'future made in Australia'

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese revealed his government’s plan for the future of Australian manufacturing, with the announcement of a planned Future Made in Australia Act as the nation looks to accelerate its transition to net zero by 2050.

Announced on Thursday, 11 April 2024, the plan was likened to the AU$520 billion Inflation Reduction Act in the US. Hydrogen, green metals, solar power, emerging renewable sources and technologies form the future of the country under the plan.

Backed by business groups, the plan was welcomed by most sectors but most now want to see more action and less talk. 

Regional areas

BZE CEO Heidi Lee said the independent think tank had been calling for government investment in Australian manufacturing capability.

“Communities in regional Australia stand to benefit from the investment in affordable and reliable clean energy, and modern infrastructure that will link our resource-rich areas to clean industry clusters built around our established ports and smelters. This will see jobs and prosperity flow to places that need it most.

“It’s fantastic to see Australia step off the sidelines of the global clean energy race, and set up our communities to capitalise on our critical minerals by manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines with recyclable blades, batteries, heat pumps and parts for electric vehicles.

“We’re not starting from zero in terms of manufacturing in Australia — our research shows that we already have Australian companies doing bits and pieces, and we can scale this up and coordinate so we’re making the most of our natural advantages.”

BZE is calling for a suite of measures, including investment national coordination, production credits and equity funding in strategic clean technologies to catalyse onshore manufacturing in the May Federal Budget.


Curtin University sustainability expert Professor Peter Newman said cities also have a vital role to play in local manufacturing in the net zero economy and could see Australia thrive on a global scale:

“There are many aspects of the Australian economy already further down the green economy track than many other countries which can now expand and thrive significantly with this new federal backing. Cities are doing amazing transformative projects with solar, batteries and electrification of everything to enable net zero outcomes. Our project on Net Zero Precincts is looking at how Australia is establishing systems that can provide employment and productivity gains across many supply chains as they switch to net zero products and services. These include the building industry, infrastructure providers and planning/design services, which can all gain as the world sets up the net zero economy.”

Heavy manufacturing

Weld Australia wants to see enforceable local content requirements formally incorporated and the right investments made in order to strengthen local manufacturing.

According to Geoff Crittenden (CEO, Weld Australia): “A local heavy manufacturing industry, backed by government investment, would deliver speed to market and reduce Australia’s exposure to supply chain risk. Australia currently has reduced capacity in wind tower manufacturing because government contracts have long been offshored. However, major steel manufacturers such as BlueScope have expressed interest in wind tower manufacturing, as have Weld Australia’s members,” Crittenden said.

“Specific, enforceable local content and the right investment in heavy manufacturing will fortify domestic clean energy supply chains, boost investor confidence and cultivate a skilled workforce for the energy transition, positioning Australia as a global renewable energy superpower.”


Sam Ringwaldt, CEO of climate technology startup Conry Tech, is critical of Australia’s lack of funding of the manufacturing sector and has published research showing that no industry has shrunk more than manufacturing in the last 15 years.

“Future is the operative word when it comes to Australian manufacturing. It’s always tomorrow’s problem, not today’s. It’s great that Albanese is talking about Australian manufacturing, but we need to start putting these words into action. The Australian Government needs to invest in our future manufacturing today, not someday,” Ringwaldt said.

“The NRF [National Reconstruction Fund] is a prime example. It has some amazing people involved, and lots of real-world experience at the helm, but the timeline reads like a Utopia TV show script. The program gets announced to great fanfare, the $15bn funding gets confirmed, the board gets chosen, the first meeting is held. A year on, before it has achieved anything of note, it gets consolidated into a bigger manufacturing program with an even more ambitious objective. As a point of comparison, the US has spent billions in the US Inflation Reduction Act that inspired the NRF. Australia is yet to spend a cent.”

Ringwaldt was not all doom and gloom. “We believe that manufacturing businesses can thrive in Australia, but we need much more support for that to happen.”


The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) welcomes the vision for innovation and prosperity that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese outlined. ATSE has long called for ambitious action to take advantage of the opportunities ahead of us in energy, manufacturing, advanced technologies and more.

Such action will crucially help arrest Australia’s slowing productivity growth and declining economic complexity that puts us at 93rd in the world. We look forward to seeing the details of the new initiatives as they are announced.

“The Prime Minister has said the world won’t wait for us. He’s right. We need an immediate and sustained increase in R&D funding to make sure Australia doesn’t get left behind,” said ATSE CEO Kylie Walker.

“Australian research and innovation will be the driving force behind our future prosperity. Australia cannot afford to neglect R&D any longer.”

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