Friday, February 23, 2024

How Anthony Albanese praised his poster child EV company Tritium as a ‘great success story’ – then refused to bail it out and save hundreds of Aussie jobs despite

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Anthony Albanese once hailed the success of EV charger firm Tritium but has refused to save hundreds of Aussie jobs when it shuts down its Brisbane factory.

Australian-based but US-listed Tritium has confirmed it will close its Queensland plant in a desperate bid to save money after its share price plummeted 98 per cent.

The company is feared to be teetering on the brink of collapse after shareholders refused to invest more cash and its stock price slumped from US$10-plus to just 18c. 

But only eight months ago, the Prime Minister was singing the praises of the Aussie start-up, founded in 2001, calling its achievements ‘extraordinary’.

Mr Albanese has refused to step in with a rescue package despite the Prime Minister being a strong supporter of EVs and reducing carbon emissions. 

In a blow for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s green manufacturing ambitions, EV charging company Tritium will close its local factory due to high costs (pictured, visiting Tritium in March 2023)

The company will move all its manufacturing to its Tennessee base in the United States

The company will move all its manufacturing to its Tennessee base in the United States

On a visit to the Tritium factory in March, Mr Albanese said: ‘This company has grown in a very short period of time to operate in 42 different countries.

‘This is my third visit to Tritium. Every time I come back, I hear about more revenue, more jobs being created, and more countries where Australia is exporting to. 

‘This is a great success story here… and the capacity that they have to grow further is just extraordinary.’

Tritium produces high-speed DC chargers for third party firms like BP and Shell, which recharge electric vehicles on long distance journeys at freeway charging stations.

Critics claim the company’s chargers are often unreliable and unsuited to the harsh Australian weather conditions, frequently breaking down and frustrating drivers. 

NASDAQ has now threatened to axe Tritium’s listing just a year after it debuted on the tech exchange, with its stock price slipping from US$10.30 in November 2021 to just 18c on Monday.

When the firm begged the Queensland state government for a $91million bailout to save the Brisbane plant, the plea was snubbed by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

The federal government also refused to step in with a rescue package despite the Prime Minister’s praise earlier in the year and the importance of chargers for the increased take-up of electric vehicles like those from Tesla, MG, Polestar and BYD.

The Prime Minister’s visit to Tritium came after the launch of the government’s National Reconstruction Fund which aims to rebuild Australia’s industrial base. 

The $15 billion warchest will provide loans, guarantees, and equity to support projects to create secure, well-paid jobs and drive regional development. 

But an application to the scheme by Tritium was reportedly rejected and failed to secure new funding to safeguard their factory’s future.

Industry minister Ed Husic last month said no-one from the company had contacted the government directly, but said a cash injection to the troubled firm was unlikely.

‘Investors will be obviously working with the management team to determine what they will do next,’ he told a trade forum in London.

‘As for approaching the government, we haven’t received one yet but I’d be very reluctant to necessarily make a positive decision given that there’s a lot more that needs to be worked out within that company.’

Investors have previously attacked Tritium’s decision to manufacture in Australia where labour and energy costs are much higher than in China or elsewhere.

Australian billionaire Brian Flannery – who owns five per cent of Tritium – vowed not to invest another cent in the firm because of the decision to manufacture in Brisbane. 

He said the business ‘needs to work hard’ on reducing costs and ‘maybe pause research and development for a while’.

He said Tritium could never make a profit manufacturing in Australia as labour and material costs were too high.

‘Manufacturing costs are generally lower in the US,’ he said. ‘They should have bitten the bullet and moved to the United States earlier.’

One EV driver recently took to social media to explain her issues on a road trip

She found herself stranded with no access to a working charger

Critics claim the company’s chargers are often unreliable and unsuited to the harsh Australian weather conditions, frequently breaking down and frustrating drivers (left and right)

Tritium has now spent $40million this year to fast track a new US factory in Lebanon, Tennessee, which will take over Brisbane’s production when the Murrarie plant winds up on December 22.

Tritium insists only 75 workers will lose their job when the factory closes at Christmas, but industry experts put the final total at 200 out of its 400-strong Australian-based employees.

Analysts predict the entire Tritium head office will be relocated to the US in the wake of the factory closure in a bid to bolster investment confidence. 

But CEO Jane Hunter insisted the remaining 200 HQ jobs – including the testing and research and development teams – will continue to be based in Brisbane. 

‘This transition is aligned with the company’s plan to be profitable in 2024,’ she said.

‘The implementation of this plan, including the closure of the Brisbane factory and consolidating our manufacturing operations in Tennessee, supports the ongoing market competitiveness and positioning of the company as a world leader in its category.’

The state government said the closure was ‘disappointing’ but vowed to support the axed workers, who have been told not to speak to the media about the closure.

Tritium was founded in 2001 by engineers David Finn, James Kennedy and Paul Sernia and launched on Nasdaq two years ago with an initial valuation of US$2billion.

Its current share price has slashed the company’s market value to just $30million.

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