The federal Opposition this week fronted a room full of battery metals miners to tell them exactly why they should vote Labor at the upcoming election.

Madeleine King, federal shadow minister assisting for resources, didn’t waste any time in buttering up the WA miners by promising that Labor’s previously announced “Australian Future Mines Centre” would be located in Perth.

To sweeten the deal even further, Ms King said if Labor won government, it would chip in $23m.

“I’m pleased to announce today to this group, on behalf of federal Labor, that Perth will be the home of a new Australian Future Mines Centre should we be successful in the election coming up this May.

“This commitment recognises the strong contribution Western Australian makes in mining to the rest of the country, and indeed the world, and it recognises that Labor understands WA mining and its enormous contribution to our country.”

Ms King batted around some stats like “WA employs four out of every 10 mining workers” and contributes “around half of Australia’s total exports”.

She even called WA an “innovation powerhouse when it comes to exploration and discovery” and said it had been for many years.

“The Australian Future Mines Centre will seek to lead scientific research projects and will be funded through a $46m Australian Research Council special research initiative with additional input from the Australian Academy of Sciences and from the sector itself,” she noted.

“A Shorten Labor government will inject $23m directly into this centre.”

But miners themselves will also need to do some heavy lifting.

“Labor will encourage co-funding as a part of this centre, co-funding from the industry at large, and the ongoing active involvement of the industry in the Australian Future Mines Centre will be critical to its establishment, to its success and its ongoing benefit to the nation,” she explained.

The WA Labor government has been rallying for the State to be the home to a new federal government-backed battery industry research centre.

The State was short-listed in October last year as a potential location and is expecting to find out this month whether it will be home to the new facility.

If the bid is successful, Perth will host the “Future Battery Industries” Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) headquarters and the State government will invest $5.5m.

Ms King doesn’t quite know yet how exactly federal Labor’s new Australian Future Mines Centre would work with the CRC if WA is chosen, saying only that it is her priority to make sure both centres work in “lockstep”.

What about the talent shortage?

The federal Opposition also wants to do its bit for the emerging skills shortage in WA and Australia as a whole and has promised $2m worth of scholarships.

“Now the notion of creating jobs is all very well, but who is going to have the skills and education to do these jobs?” Ms King queried.

“We have a concrete commitment and a direction with a $2m fund that will provide approximately 100 scholarships to arrest the dramatic decline in students enrolling in mining engineering degrees.”

Ms King said that particular issue was felt “most harshly” in WA, where enrolments in mining engineering-related degrees at UWA and Curtin were “quite stunning”.

“I think there’s only six enrolled in the school of mines at the moment through Curtin, or just starting to enrol, and that’s a really sad state of affairs for a state that’s really very, very strong in mining engineering.”

Read about the mining engineering shortage here. 

Of those 100 scholarships, 50 worth $20,000 each will be granted to WA universities.

Half of all scholarships will also be set aside for women enrolling in mining engineering because Labor feels so strongly about equality for women in Australia.

Labor also reckons it’s going to sell the investment case for a complete battery supply chain to overseas investors much better than the Liberal government.

“We know that Australia is capable of hosting the entire lithium-ion production chain, but we know what is required and that is a significant investment and commitment of a globally patented manufacturer,” Ms King explained.

“As Labor announced last year, we intend to supercharge Australia’s battery metal manufacturing industry by working with Austrade to develop a manufacturing, export and investment strategy starting with a review of the future of battery metal extraction and advanced processing.

“Federal Labor remains committed to attracting additional international investment in Australia. Let’s face it, it’s an easier sell than you think, but really you have to make sure you make the pitch.”

Ms King said a new Labor government would continue to undertake high level ministerial delegations overseas as part of its investment strategy for the battery minerals industry.

“We intend to make research and development into battery metal processing and battery manufacture a funding priority for the Australian Research Council, and this will work in conjunction with our other major announcement, which is Labor’s $1 billion Australian Manufacturing Future Fund,” she said.

“This fund will be applied to provide the workforce and the wider industry with key support needed to ensure growth, productivity and sustainability is prioritised.”