Consideration in Detail - Appropriation Bills (Industry Part 1)
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (10:16): The coalition is committed to driving business competitiveness by supporting business improvement and promoting economic growth through commercialisation of new ideas. I want to ask about the government's commitment to industry policy—more specifically, the delivery of the new Entrepreneurs' Infrastructure Program through a single business service initiative. Mr Deputy Speaker, as you would be aware, unemployment in my region increased to over nine per cent under the previous Labor government, during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. It is absolutely essential that we do things to help the economy in the regions, so, Minister, I ask you to list the programs and the new initiatives that the coalition government is providing for industry to help drive competitiveness and create jobs of the future. Also, focusing on the Entrepreneurs' Infrastructure Program, would you tell me the rationale for the creation of this new and innovative program? What are the primary objectives and components of the program? How much funding will it receive? What progress is being made in the establishment of the EIP?
Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Groom—Minister for Industry) (10:17): I thank the Member for Hinkler for his question. I know that, in the short nine months that he has been there, he has had an enormous impact in terms of encouraging new businesses and new industries to that region. He has certainly ensured that businesses in Hinkler—or potentially in Hinkler, or if he can steal them from anywhere else—are aware that he is more than welcoming of new businesses in his electorate. He is making sure that the 'open for business' sign is well and truly illuminated both here and overseas.
In answering the member for Hinkler's questions, I will say how important it is that we continue to see businesses established and that we attract not only businesses from Australia but also foreign investment. Innovation in Australia is a very, very high priority for this government, as it was last time I held this portfolio, between 2001 and 2007. We want to invigorate people to commercialise their good ideas. A good idea is worth nothing until it is turned into a commercial opportunity, until it is turned into a job opportunity for people—and, in this case, the people of the seat of Hinkler in particular.
We are investing more than $2.25 billion in industry programs over the forward estimates, and this will deliver real outcomes and real jobs. We are certainly not abandoning the industries that those opposite would want you to believe we are. In terms of supporting industries, we have stood behind industries, we are adjusting industries and we are offering industries new opportunities.
The range of programs to assist that innovation, create jobs and provide a streamlined and focused approach to industry policy include, as the member mentioned: the Entrepreneurs' Infrastructure Program, some $484 million manufacturing worth of funding; the Manufacturing Transition Program, some $50 million worth of funding; the growth fund to assist those involved in the auto industry to transition to new long-term jobs, a total of $155 million of which the Commonwealth government contributed $101 million; the Prime Minister's National Industry Investment and Competitiveness Agenda, which will be announced in the months ahead; and the Industry Skills Fund, which, again, is a very important area in giving business the skills they need and their employees the skills they need to be competitive in an evolving and developing industry framework, some $476 million. Some might say the Trade Support Loan is the jewel in the crown of the training support area, some $1.9 billion of trade support loans. People wanting to do apprenticeships and certain traineeships will be able to access loans of up to $20,000 interest-free and adjusted with CPI annually.
The response from industry once we explained the Trade Support Loan scheme to them has been excellent. I was actually out my electorate last Friday doing that and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The cost of providing those loans interest-free is around $480 million in the forward estimates. As well as that, we have got: the Geelong Region and Melbourne North Investment Fund, some $54 million and we are well through that; the Tasmanian Investment Fund of $11 million; and the Automotive Transition Transformation scheme for the auto industry, exclusively for the auto industry, some $550 million.
The member asked about the Entrepreneurs' Infrastructure Program. The new program, aimed at supporting the commercialisation of good ideas, establishes and delivers a straightforward, proactive and effective approach to industry policy through a substantive and more efficient implementation platform which is known as the single business service. It will provide market and industry information and advice to business. It will offer business management advice and skills. Experienced private sector business advisers will give access to research and innovators to re-engineer business operations. It will also connect them to supply chains and potential markets as well as commercialisation advice.