Rebuilding Vehicle Manufacturing in Australia

Industrial Opportunities in an Electrified Future
by Mark Dean

Global automotive manufacturing is rapidly transitioning to the production of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in line with technological advancements and the global community’s commitment to addressing climate change. This transition presents an enormous opportunity for Australia to rebuild its vehicle manufacturing industry, taking advantage of our competitive strengths in renewable energy, extractive industries, manufacturing capabilities, and skilled workers.

Australia possesses many of the crucial elements for an EV manufacturing industry: rich mineral reserves, an advanced industrial base, a highly skilled workforce, and consumer interest. But what it lacks is an overarching, coordinating and strategic national industry policy. Global experience shows that this is central to EV-oriented industrial transformation. Australia can play an important role in global EV manufacturing industries but developing a strategy to realise this will require active government policy responses to both the challenges and opportunities at hand.

Australia’s natural resource endowments and industrial capabilities make EV industry development a viable economic and social strategy. Our moral obligations to create a sustainable future make it essential public policy. This report illustrates how Australia can rebuild a vehicle manufacturing industry, on a sustainable ecological foundation, and meet our international environmental obligations. The report covers several important related dimensions of the issue:

  • How an EV manufacturing strategy can add value to Australia’s existing exports of primary resources – connecting them to innovative, sustainable manufacturing industries;
  • Developing supply and value chain linkages to the global EV industry by increasing the capability for innovation and advanced manufacturing amongst small and medium-sized enterprises;
  • The central role of Australia’s education systems in delivering sustainable industry-focused training and skills development, to provide workers with career pathways shaped by lifelong access to education and learning;
  • How active government intervention can coordinate economic sectors in an innovative and strategically oriented industry policy driving sustainable economic and technological transformation; and
  • Understanding the importance of automotive manufacturing to our industrial future, its role in redesigning transport systems, investing in new technology and gearing production systems to meet social and environmental requirements.

To make the case for a national EV manufacturing policy, this paper reviews existing literature and presents relevant data to show that an EV industry in Australia is not just desirable – but it can also lead the sustainable transformation of Australia’s economy.

The paper is arranged as follows. The next section provides an overview of the Australian national EV policy landscape and the international context, to identify trends and opportunities in EV manufacturing.

The bulk of the paper is then dedicated to reviewing four key ‘Building Blocks’ of an industry policy: the resources sector, skilled labour, supply chain capabilities and capital assets, and the capacity of government to develop a policy response that assembles these key elements as the foundation for rebuilding Australian manufacturing with EVs at the centre.

In mapping this foundation of an EV manufacturing policy, the subsequent section cautions that an EV industry is not a panacea for addressing the broader climate crisis and creating a sustainable economy. It argues, however, that a sustainable EV industry should be considered as a major driver of industrial transformation alongside other positive cultural and environmental changes within Australian society.

The conclusion summarises the paper’s overarching theme that Australia can build a strong EV manufacturing industry with the right policy settings and government actions. It makes several specific recommendations to get the ball rolling on developing these settings – including recommendations touching on industry planning, energy requirements, consumer demand, resource use, supply chain developments, skills and training, and government support.

Full report