WA looks to shore up economy after virus

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan wants to drive manufacturing to help steel the economy.
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan wants to drive manufacturing to help steel the economy.

Western Australia will look into manufacturing wind turbine components as part of a mission towards greater self-sufficiency driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

A feasibility study will examine the potential to leverage existing steel fabrication businesses to supply the local renewable energy industry.

Premier Mark McGowan announced the study on Thursday as part of a $58 million stimulus plan for the Great Southern region, which is home to a number of wind farms.

"Clearly wind will be an important part of our renewable future for decades, if not centuries, to come and we want to make sure Western Australia is at the forefront," he told reporters in Albany.

"Wind turbines in one of the windiest places on earth is obviously a natural fit, so we're going to work with industry to try and come up with ways of manufacturing more of the components and even wind turbines here in the state."

The government is also looking into other manufacturing prospects including iron ore railcar construction and the production of lithium battery components.

Local manufacturing has generally played a fairly limited role within WA's high-wage, commodity-based economy.

But the premier wants that to change.

"Western Australians want more manufacturing ... we need to be more self-sufficient," he said.

The continued strength of the iron ore price is likely to at least partially insulate WA's economy from significant damage.

But the impact of the pandemic on China, WA's biggest trading partner, has highlighted weaknesses in supply chains.

"What COVID-19 demonstrated is there are lots of risks of concentrating your global manufacturing supply chains through only one country," Energy Minister Bill Johnston said.

"There have been people who say you can't do manufacturing in Western Australia but we are demonstrating that you can."

Treasurer Ben Wyatt is set to deliver the state budget in October.

WA recorded no new positive tests on Thursday, leaving the state with seven active cases.

Australian Associated Press