House debates

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Grievance Debate


5:08 pm

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

When the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, came to Gladstone on 21 January this year, he made two major announcements: firstly, a sod-turning event at the School of Manufacturing on the Gladstone campus of the CQU and, secondly, that the School of Mining would be set up in the North Rockhampton campus. Both schools will create an estimated 311 local jobs, including 114 in Gladstone, and there will be the ongoing jobs that will flow once the students graduate from these facilities. Thousands of Flynn residents work in manufacturing in my electorate. For example, Boyne Smelters employs over a thousand people in direct jobs, but there are many other indirect jobs that associate themselves with the Boyne smelter.

We need more skilled and semi-skilled workers in regional Australia in all facets of the industry. According to World Bank data, Australian manufacturing is only 5.8 per cent of the economy. We are ranked 179th in the world. Some other countries' performances can be compared. Turkey is 40th in the world, at 17.6 per cent of the economy. Greece is 147th, at 9.5, which is better than Australia. In the USA 13 per cent of the economy is tied up in manufacturing. In Japan it's 19 per cent, and in Germany it's 23 per cent. Just below Australia, at 5.7 per cent, are Niger and Yemen, very small countries indeed. The best performers are Singapore and Israel, who have no natural resources whatsoever; they make do with what they haven't got. So there's plenty of room for improvement in this sector in Australia.

The National Party's backbench policy committee released its manufacturing 2035 plan recently, outlining the National Party's vision for the manufacturing industry. The paper outlines a nine-point plan to double employment in the manufacturing, which currently sits at about 850,000 people. Going back 30 years, manufacturing was the biggest employer in Australia, employing over 1.6 million people. One point I'm particularly passionate about is providing our manufacturing sector with quality, reliable and low-cost power. I said it before, I say it again and I'll keep saying it: Australia needs new high-energy, low-emissions power stations. I think one in each of the states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria would be adequate to supply cheap, competitive electricity. I think there's a spot in my electorate of Flynn where a new HELE plant could be built. Competitively priced electricity remains a key ingredient for a viable, profitable manufacturing industry.

The latest trade data confirms the resilience of the Australian resource sector, with coal exports on the rise despite the recent global challenges. The value of coal exports in December increased by an impressive 26 per cent from November. Coal was worth $3.7 billion to the Australian economy in December alone. That result reinforces the importance of coal as an Australian export commodity that will remain for many years to come. Coal will be king for a long time yet. We have a great resource here in our own backyard, and while it's in the ground it cannot be used. The global demand is there, and that's why coal exports from the Gladstone port are increasing year on year, month on month. We can use this resource to help build our hospitals and our schools and other facilities that we take for granted, creating local jobs—well paying jobs, too—and that's really good for the economy in my electorate. Over 35,000 people are employed in the coalfields in and around my electorate. With Queensland's unemployment rate the worst in Australia, at 7.5 per cent, I urge the new Queensland government, which is nearly 100 days old, to get behind some of these manufacturing projects—get them off the ground, get the soil dug and get the projects started. It's essential that we do this to help people who are out of work and get them into the regions where these jobs exist.


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