Anthony Albanese hints manufacturing big part of budget in solar cash splash

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Anthony Albanese has kicked off his pre-budget pitch with what he says will be a big sneak peek into his made-in-Australia plan for the future.

The Prime Minister announced the $1bn cash splash for subsidies and grants to ensure more solar panels are built in Australia on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters on the site of the former coal-fired Liddell power station in Muswellbrook, he described it as one of the “significant” investments in his government’s term.

“We see a future made in Australia as being a centrepiece of our budget in May,” he said alongside ministers, local MP Dan Repacholi and AGL chief Damien Nicks.

“This is, if you like, a bit of a sneak peek into what we will be rolling out over the next year and in the years to come.

“This is a big difference between us and our political opponents who don’t think that Australia’s up to it (and) effectively have abandoned manufacturing.”

About a third of Australian households have solar, but only one per cent of solar panels are made in Australia.

The government hopes the manufacturing sector can be boosted by zeroing in on the renewable energy boom, especially in areas such as the Hunter, where coal powered generation and mining are major employers.

Mr Repacholi described the announcement as being about one thing: “jobs, jobs, and jobs”.

“I campaigned hard, talking about jobs all throughout the election, and now we’re in, and now we’re showcasing what we’re doing,” the Hunter MP said.

“We are talking today about many, many jobs here for the future.”

Mr Nicks welcomed the arrival of Sydney-based Sun Drive to the Hunter and confirmed the company had signed a memorandum of understanding for a commercial scale solar manufacturing facility at the AGL site.

“The world is changing and so are we. We are looking for partnerships for opportunities that transform our business that decarbonize our portfolio, and repurpose our sites into clean industrial hubs,” the AGL chief said.

The first phase will see hundreds of thousands of panels made on site with Sun Drive insisting it wants to scale production to “millions” per year.

Co-founder and CEO Vince Allen said it could slash the cost of panels by 15 per cent as we’d no longer need to import them from Asia.

It comes as new figures, released by the Finance Department on Thursday, showed a razor thin budget deficit but the government still within striking distance of a second surplus.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said: “despite the substantial progress we’ve made, we know it will take more than a single budget or a single term to clean up the mess left behind by the former government”.

“Like our first two budgets, the May 14 Budget will continue to put a premium on what’s responsible, affordable, and methodical,” he said.

“We know a surplus is not an end in itself but an important way to take pressure off inflation and build a better foundation to fund the nation’s most pressing priorities.”

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