MPI – Manufacturing Industry

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Mr PITT : I say to the member for Chifley: there’s a lot talk about who’s not here. I’m here, Huckleberry! No problems at all. I’m very pleased to be here talking about manufacturing. As someone who actually worked in manufacturing, did a trade in manufacturing—

Mr Husic interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Llew O’Brien): The minister will pause. The member for Chifley used the wrong term numerous times before I called him up. I gave you that opportunity. I think I’m pretty fair. The member for Hinkler.

Mr PITT: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It’s a term of endearment! I’m sure the member for Chifley is not offended. We’ve had 10 minutes from those opposite, and what have we heard? Not a single alternative policy—a lot of complaints about how much media a particular minister might do, but not a single alternative policy from those who purport to be the next alternative government.

These things are pretty straightforward. Let’s stick with the facts, and the facts are very straightforward indeed. Consumer sentiment is at the highest level it’s been in 11 years for business conditions. Mr Deputy Speaker, as someone who comes from small business, from farming and a range of other employment, I can tell you that the fundamentals remain the same. That is, for manufacturing to be successful they need to have affordable and reliable electricity and affordable and reliable gas. They need red and green tape out of their way and they need a skilled workforce that is out there and available for their use.

I was in the west last week, over in Karratha, where they have two very large LNG plants. We visited both of those. One of the individuals in Karratha made a comment which I have picked up. It’s a great term. It’s a great way to think about these skills needs for manufacturing. It is: we have to grow our own timber. For every Australian kid out there looking for an opportunity, your time is now. We have put significant money on the table and there are over 300,000 apprentice and trainee opportunities. There is a 50 per cent wage subsidy, which has been warmly welcomed by industry. If we want to be successful in the future, the available workforce is the Australian workforce, and we need to grow our own timber. It’s our kids that are looking for those chances, and it’s this side of House that wants to ensure those opportunities are provided for them.

In Karratha one of the challenges is available people. They’re looking to expand and are looking for new opportunities. We were at the Pluto LNG facility. It’s set, ready for a new train once it gets more gas. That means more construction work. That means more people, fly-in fly-out and residential. But it also means more opportunities for shuts. They need literally hundreds of individuals on a shut. They’ve had to delay some of their maintenance due to COVID. That means we now have a shortfall in some of these areas which needs to be addressed.

To come back to the fundamentals: manufacturing remains Australia’s sixth-largest industry, currently employing 902,000 people, nearly a million. That is up 54,900 since the COVID-induced low, and that indicates that nearly all of those losses have been recovered. I think that’s a good thing. I think that is a positive for our country, a positive for manufacturing, a positive for opportunity. You only have to look at confidence in the sector. There was recently an announcement by Santos up in Darwin that they will extend the life of Darwin LNG and they will invest over A$5 billion into the Barossa oil and gas field to see that those opportunities continue for at least another two decades.

Those opposite have got plenty to say about the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. They’ve got plenty to say about media opportunities. We don’t hear alternative policies. But what we do hear, from industry, is confidence, and that confidence is resulting in investment. That investment is important so that we have a pipeline into the future, not only in the resources sector, in terms of my portfolio, but right across the Australian economy. One of the things that we are doing is implementing strategic basin plans for gas. The Beetaloo was our first announcement. We’ve committed over $200 million to the Beetaloo. That is around roads infrastructure, for example. It is remote work. It’s hard, it’s hot, it’s difficult. But there are individuals out there now who are bringing forward their exploration plans, bringing forward drilling in those areas to firm up that resource, because, quite simply, business will do the rest. If the resource is firmed up, then business will do the rest. I think that is a wonderful opportunity for the north, particularly around Darwin. They can build into existing infrastructure and expand into the future. We think the Beetaloo has got a big part to play in terms of manufacturing in Australia’s future. We want to see that work brought forward, and the expectation is that that work will come forward by at least two years. We’re pushing very hard to make sure that happens, and we are committing the funds into the Beetaloo to ensure that that activity occurs in this dry season and the next.

Once again, what we hear from those opposite is a long litany of complaints, not a single positive policy about what they would do as the alternative government, about what they would do to ensure further manufacturing. Right across the country, everywhere I go, I am talking to people who are looking to bring their manufacturing operations back on shore. We’ve seen a renaissance in the regions in terms of people who are shifting, who want to live in regional Australia. As I know you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, there is no better place to be than regional Australia. You can have your own house, a big yard and dogs and cats and horses and whatever you may want. But the main thing that you want in regional Australia is a job, and a lot of those jobs are driven through the resources sector in the regions and by agriculture. We want to make sure they’re successful, so we’re putting forward a plan to build agriculture to $100 billion. The resources sector has done a phenomenal job over the last 12 months. The Office of the Chief Economist is forecasting that the resources and energy exports from this country will break all records this financial year. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, we have seen an increase in employment in the resources sector, an increase in exports, an increase in confidence and an increase in investment of some $35 billion, I’m advised. That is a significant investment right across the country. We want to ensure that that investment continues.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that, as a local member, you’re not surprised that I want to identify some of those success stories in my own patch. We’ve got Superior Pak at Bundaberg. They’ve gone on to be a manufacturing powerhouse. They are Australia’s leading manufacturer of world-class waste collection and compaction equipment. If you see a rubbish truck come past, it’s most likely got a Superior Pak back on it, built at Bundaberg. Enmach—Jon Bowder and his team there—are renowned leaders in the design and manufacture of quality engineered poly moulded and steel fabricated products, another good operational business and manufacturer in my patch. You may not have heard of Knauf plasterboard, Mr Deputy Speaker, but they have plasterboard facilities in Australia. They built one in Bundaberg off the back of commitments made by the former Premier Campbell Newman to deliver gas infrastructure to the Bundaberg port, which was essential for this plant to go ahead. Plasterboard is being delivered right around Australia out of this facility in Bundaberg. They get on with their work quietly and they get it done. But would you believe that, when Queensland Labor won government in Queensland, they wanted to cancel this project? They didn’t want to follow through on those commitments, the gas pipeline that was essential, and it turned into a full-blown barney to get that work done. As a result, this facility is there and it’s delivering dozens of jobs for our local economy. It’s a new string to the bow of the regional economy and it’s a great part of manufacturing that’s based at the Bundaberg port.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen announcements that Pacific Tug Group will finally be getting on with their project, for which the Commonwealth has committed $6 million through the BBRF. Once again, this project was held up by the Queensland Labor government that simply wouldn’t give approvals to build what was necessary. This has been a long and arduous process, but I have to say I’m very pleased to see the announcement that this project is finally getting on with the job, delivering jobs in our local region and helping out manufacturing. It’s an important part of what will happen in my local electorate. Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to indulge in talking about my own patch. I don’t get the opportunity very often as a minister, but I’m really pleased to talk about it.

We are committed to manufacturing. We are committed to ensuring that Australian kids get an opportunity through apprenticeships and traineeships. We are putting money on the table to make that happen. We’ve got over $1½ billion committed to expand that manufacturing activity. I know the minister for industry has announcements to make about round 1, with the first $50 million out of the Modern Manufacturing Strategy. We’ve also got $2 billion in R & D tax incentives and we will continue to deliver what’s needed for this country to be a manufacturing powerhouse. There are alternatives out there. We are growing in the critical mineral space. We’re looking to build additional sections inside our economy, and that will continue into the future. We’ve also got a significant investment in the digital economy and we know that that will continue. In the north, as the minister for northern Australia, we will connect the north to the world. We will provide the communications necessary for the north to be successful. I look forward to seeing that come to fruition and those jobs driven into the Australian economy.