Labor’s $1b boost to fuel Queensland jobs boom

 

AUSTRALIA'S hydrogen ­export industry would be opened up under an audacious $1 billion Labor plan intended to revive the fortunes of struggling central Queensland, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will announce today in Gladstone.

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The election sweetener is aimed at tackling high unemployment rates in the regions, creating a booming new export industry and more blue-collar jobs.

While it's a national policy, Gladstone is well placed to take advantage with an abundance of renewable energy required for production and a port for easy shipping arrangements.

It's the latest in a series of bi-ticket announcements Mr Shorten has made as he seeks to woo Queenslanders during his nine-day pre-election tour.

These include a $46 million plan to help fund swimming lessons for all primary school students and a proposal to require companies bidding for large government contracts to outline how they will employ Australians or use local suppliers.

Under the latest promise, $1 billion of Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) funding would be quarantined for the sole ­purpose of supporting more hydrogen development.

Federal Labor Opposition Leader Bill Shorten talks with fitter and turner Josh Guan at the Downer railway workshop in Maryborough. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian
Federal Labor Opposition Leader Bill Shorten talks with fitter and turner Josh Guan at the Downer railway workshop in Maryborough. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian

A $3 million National Hydrogen Innovation Hub would also be based in Gladstone with the aim of kickstarting early commercialisation of new hydrogen technologies.

It would secure Australia and Queensland a slice of the global hydrogen export market, expected to be worth $215 billion worldwide by 2022.

Unemployment in Gladstone has risen to almost 8 per cent, while house prices have dropped significantly in the past five years.

Hydrogen is seen as a potential clean fuel and energy source. While it is currently expensive and difficult to transport, it is expected to find an emerging international market over the next decade.

Mr Shorten said he wanted to set up Gladstone as the "hydrogen capital of Australia". "Hydrogen is an emerging industry that has huge potential to deliver significant economic, employment, energy and environmental benefits for Australia," he said.

"Developing a hydrogen industry will deliver new ­opportunities for manufacturing, transport and electricity generation.

"We want regional Queenslanders to have good, secure blue-collar jobs for the future in existing and new industries," he said.

The plan would use $1 billion from the CEFC to go towards loans for companies investing in hydrogen development and research grants.

Newcastle is also said to be capable of supporting a hydrogen industry.

Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel has said the country had the capacity to export 137,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year by 2025, about 500,000 tonnes by 2030.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk last year released a discussion paper on how the state could tap into the emerging hydrogen market.



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