China in Conversation forum

The China in Conversation forum at the University Club of Western Australia.

The Hon. Peter Tinley AM MLA, Minister for Housing; Veterans Issues; Youth; Asian Engagement, Mr Phil Thick of Tianqi Lithium and Professor Yanrui Wu of the UWA Business School were the featured speakers at a China in Conversation forum at UWA on 27 June, sharing their insights on the opportunities and challenges of foreign investment in Australia.

An engaged audience of 240 business leaders, students and interested members of the public enjoyed a stimulating discussion chaired by Professor Shamit Saggar, inaugural Director of the UWA Public Policy Institute.


The China in Conversation series of public talks is an initiative of the Confucius Institute at UWA. This instalment on Foreign Investment in Australia was presented in partnership with the UWA Business School and the UWA Public Policy Institute.


Tianqi Lithium Australia General Manager Phil Thick described how his company’s $700 million lithium refinery being built in Kwinana is spearheading an exciting new direction for foreign investment in WA. The Kwinana plant was set to become the world’s biggest producer of battery-grade lithium hydroxide, providing 1000 construction jobs, 200 permanent operational jobs and significant other benefits to the WA economy.


“This is not a mining story, this is a manufacturing story,” he said, explaining that while WA has traditionally shipped its raw materials overseas, the Kwinana facility will process the raw material within WA, producing the core ingredient used worldwide to power everything from smartphones and laptops to the new generation of electric cars.


Minister Tinley spoke of the need to demonstrate that WA was “open for business” and proactive in smoothing the way to attract overseas capital, while Professor Wu examined investment statistics, pointing out that China provided only about 5% of total foreign direct investment (FDI) in Australia, and only 3% of China’s FDI in Australia was invested in WA last year.


The event attracted a number of high profile guests, including Ms Zhihua Dong, Consul General of the People's Republic of China in Perth; Mr Ian Blayney MLA, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food, Forestry, Fisheries; Ms Jane Caforio, WA State Director, Austrade; Professor Simon Biggs, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UWA; Professor Peter Robertson, Dean of the UWA Business School; Ms Paula Rogers, State Director, Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA); and  Mr Philip Kirchlechner, Chair of the Australia China Business Council’s Investment Committee.

WTV Channel 44 covered the event for their Undercurrent program - the report can be found here.