Consideration in Detail - Manufacturing priorities

By Matt Keogh MP

09 November 2020

As the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology outlined in the House recently, there should be no surprises. In the government's six national manufacturing priorities list, because it was developed on a solid foundation of evidence, that is entirely correct. But let me make this very important point as clear as possible: the reason the evidence is solid and why there were no surprises is that the evidence was developed years ago under the last Labor government with the announcement of its 2013 plan for Australian jobs. Let's be clear: these were Labor's ideas; these were Labor's priority areas. We're happy for this government to be copying what we did, because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; however, what is particularly galling—and it seems to be a common practice with this government—is that after they formed government they abolished Labor's plan. Then, after seven years of doing nothing, waiting for a pandemic, they've now rediscovered the importance of manufacturing. Actually, they didn't quite do nothing. They did worse than nothing, because they also chased the car industry out of Australia during those seven years as well.

The minister claims that this is about setting priorities and aligning efforts so that everyone is pulling in one direction. What a shame they spent seven years swimming in the opposite direction to the plan that was already in place in 2013. What if they had stuck to Labor's plan, instead of abolishing it as part of their 2014 budget? Manufacturing in this country would then be full of thriving businesses, employing thousands more workers, and we would have been better placed to face this global health and economic challenge. The government's track record when it comes to manufacturing is, quite simply, appalling. Nothing could be more emblematic, as I mentioned before, than having ripped out $500 million of support and goading the Australian car industry into leaving our shores, which, remarkably, they did.

This government has failed to deliver on an energy policy, after more than 20 attempts, providing no business and investment certainty. Even the member for Bennelong just mentioned it, pointing out that it's the cost of energy to our manufacturing sector that is costing the development and support of our manufacturing sector. Seven years of this government, and things have only gotten worse. It has presided over a depletion of critical skills. It has seen the destruction of the viability of smaller manufacturers further down the supply chain. It has seen the withdrawal of private capital from research and development—it effectively tried to remove billions of dollars from the R&D tax offset. And when it comes to the fig leaf that is defence industry under this government, it, remarkably, doesn't work properly because it has no proper national industry policy to support the vitally important defence industry that our country needs.

Those opposite have spent seven years attacking and undermining Australian manufacturing, but now they want Australians to believe that they support manufacturing. What a waste of seven years! When we could have had more economic growth, we've instead seen the waste of taxpayers money. So your manufacturing plan, your business tax carry forward plan, your instant asset write-off: they all sound familiar, because they were all Labor's policies abolished by this government in 2014. When are you going to admit that your best ideas are simply a rehash of Labor policies?