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No lease latest woe for Avalon battery project

August 29, 2023 1:14 pm in by
Corio MP Richard Marles (from left), Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic, Recharge Industries David Hay, Corangamite MP Libby Coker and former Recharge Industries CEO Rob Fitzpatrick (supplied).

Serious questions continue to emerge over proponents of a Gigafactory at Avalon that’s roped in high profile backers.

Land managers Linfox have confirmed Recharge Industries has not entered into any lease agreement there, despite the project being announced in late 2022.

In January the company released concept plans for the factory it said would be the world’s largest lithium-ion batter cell production facilities, and one that would provide thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars.

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The company has held numerous site visits on empty land beside the airport, including in May with Deputy Prime Minister and local member for Corio Richard Marles, who was accompanied by Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic and Corangamite MP Libby Coker.

The tour was hosted by then CEO of Recharge Industries Rob Fitzpatrick, who spoke of Australia being in a key position to get in on the world’s rapidly expanding battery industry.

“Globally, the energy landscape is shifting rapidly, with government subsidies for battery cell manufacturing transforming the industry,” Mr Fitzpatrick said at the time.

Months later the man who had been CEO for less than a year had quietly left the fledgling business, shortly after the headquarters of its parent company in North Geelong received an unwelcome visit from the federal police. On June 23, Serious Financial Crime Taskforce officers from the AFP executed multiple search warrants in the region as part of an investigation into alleged taxation fraud.

“We have and will continue to fully cooperate with the ATO and now the AFP,” a Scale Facilitation spokesperson said in response to the raids.

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“We deny any wrong doing and will continue working with our legal and other advisors to defend any matters arising from these discussions.”

Richard Marles (second left), with Scale Facilitation CEO David Collard, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton in New York (supplied).

Richard Marles (second left), with Scale Facilitation CEO David Collard, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton in New York (supplied).

Media reports around the time suggest some staff were going unpaid, and then came allegations that the companies Geelong-raised and America based chief David Collard had not paid rent on his New York City apartment and was being taken to court over arrears.

Worse still were allegations that Scale Facilitation was also behind on rent for its top floor office in the One World Trade Center, the grand opening of which in December 2022 saw both Richard Marles and opposition leader Peter Dutton in attendance.

“Dave Collard is a force of nature,” Mr Marles said at the time.

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“Dave Collard is innately entrepreneurial…Dave is a person who is values driven and who is passionate.”

Mr Dutton, who had been flown to the event by the company, was similarly effusive.

“I want to say thank you very much to Dave… he brings together an enthusiasm….and he has the ability to see around corners and over the horizon,” he said.

Asked this week if he was concerned by the ongoing revelations of problems with the company that’s promised so much for his electorate, Mr Marles said he was unaware of specifics with the issue.

“I think everyone in Geelong was hopeful that we would see battery manufacturing take place in our town,” he said.

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“I hope that we get to see it in the future.”

Scale Facilitation and Recharge Industries have not responded to requests for comment.

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