House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Textile, Clothing and Footwear Strategic Investment Program Amendment (Building Innovative Capability) Bill 2009

Second Reading

Debate resumed from 25 November 2009, on motion by Dr Emerson:

That this bill be now read a second time.

6:22 pm

Photo of Sophie MirabellaSophie Mirabella (Indi, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Strategic Investment Program Amendment (Building Innovative Capability) Bill 2009 amends the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Strategic Investment Program Act 1999 to provide authority for the formulation of a new Clothing and Household Textile (Building Innovative Capability) scheme. This scheme is part of the TCF measures announced in the 2009-10 budget and comes in response to the review conducted by Professor Roy Green which began in 2008. It is a scheme which will replace the then coalition government’s Textile, Clothing and Footwear Post-2005 Strategic Investment Program Scheme for the 2010-11 to 2014-15 years.

The coalition’s scheme sought to foster the development of a sustainable and competitive TCF manufacturing sector and design industry in Australia by providing incentives in the form of grants. The coalition has always been supportive of the textile, clothing and footwear industry. This industry is particularly close to my heart as it is a significant industry in my electorate and a significant employer. In November 2003, the then coalition government announced a long-term assistance package of $747 million for Australia’s textile, clothing and footwear industry. This followed a five-year $678 million textile, clothing and footwear strategic investment program.

The textile, clothing and footwear industry is an important industry, providing employment to thousands of people. It is also one that has faced particular challenges and difficulties. This has not changed, with the industry today facing strong competition from countries such as China and other low-cost-manufacturing countries, the impact of a strong dollar on exports, the further reduction in tariffs and the difficulties associated with the global financial crisis. While the Rudd government, true to form, pay lip-service about supporting Australia’s TCF industry, their actions across other areas and other portfolios tells another story.

Like the vast majority of Australians, I was horrified and dismayed last week when it came to light that fabric for Australian defence uniforms could be sourced from China. The public revelation of the government’s secret plan resulted in the Minister for Defence Personnel, Material and Science backflipping and back-pedalling in a significant way. It was quite interesting to listen to the tricky language that was used at the time. The minister claimed that the Chinese supply was ‘just an option’, which clearly contradicts Defence confirmation of the contract and the Indi Labor candidate’s comments on local radio that some of the material would be made in China. The reality was that it was part of a tender that had been awarded by this Labor government—that is, because it awarded this tender, the government had accepted the purchase of fabric from China.

Just briefly, I would like to put on the record some of the background to this issue, because it is important to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. This issue very much relates to the future of the textile, clothing and footwear industry. It is not good enough just to have a debate about some assistance program in isolation without looking at some of the broader issues and the government’s approach. This issue goes back to July 2009, when Defence awarded a contract to the Bendigo based Australian Defence Apparel for the manufacture of Defence’s combat camouflage uniforms and the fabric known as DPCU. There is nothing surprising here: ADA has been making uniforms for the Commonwealth since 1912. However, unlike previous contracts, this tender allowed the sourcing of fabric from China, presumably once Defence’s current stock of locally made Australian fabric had been exhausted. But sourcing this unique fabric from China is not at all like a local clothing manufacturer importing any sort of fabric. It is not. This modern DPCU is not just your run-of-the-mill pattern fabric. It is a high-tech fabric with a range of features designed to make it difficult for modern optical sensors to detect and target soldiers. The technology has been developed in Australia, partly using taxpayers’ dollars. It is not in our soldiers’ interests and not in the Australian textile industry’s interests to give this recipe to a foreign manufacturer who supplies third parties with soldiers’ uniforms as well. To make matters worse, it appears that the government was going to allow this technology to go to China.

I know there are many other tenders outstanding and contracts awarded by government which raise similar issues and concerns and I will be monitoring and investigating those over the next few months. It is of particular concern because, again, the minister gave certain undertakings. Last July, around the same time this contract was awarded, Minister Combet adopted Defence’s longstanding Priority Industry Capability policy. This is where the government is committed to:

… ensure that certain strategically important industry capabilities continue to be available from within Australia … and which, if not available, would significantly undermine defence self reliance and Australian Defence Force (ADF) operational capability.

So, at roughly the same time that this contract was being awarded, Minister Combat was putting on the record totally the opposite. Interestingly enough, this is on point because Minister Combet’s document adopting priority industry capabilities includes combat gear as a key priority industry capability.

Under this policy, the Chinese tender should never have been accepted. The federal government, and Defence in particular, have a responsibility to get good value for the taxpayer dollars they spend, but scrimping a few dollars to dress our diggers in Chinese uniforms is both a false economy and a slap in the face to our men and women in uniform for no good reason. It is a slap in the face to domestic industries which are successful, competitive and innovative in this sector that we are trying to help with this bill. The cost to the economy of endangering 400 jobs in north-east Victoria and the damage to the industry that this could cause is far more significant than the alleged, and quite questionable, $1.5 million in savings that would have come out of this contract.

It is very interesting for this sector to ask, ‘Where was the union in all of this?’ The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union issued a statement only on the day the story broke, calling on the minister to guarantee Australian jobs. Can you imagine: there they are in their nice red brick building down on the edge of the CBD of Melbourne panicking and saying: ‘Well, we haven’t said anything about this issue. It’s front-page on some of the papers around the country and we’d better come up with something quick smart. Of course, we knew about it, but we couldn’t say anything because we’re part and parcel of the Labor Party; we couldn’t criticise them to support local jobs.’ The workers who potentially could have been affected know what the union did not do and know that the union was silent on this issue. In the close-knit world of Labor and unions, it defies common sense that the union was unaware of this situation. This was not an isolated case; it is just another example of the union being silent for political expediency.

We do not have to go that far back to recall the barest whimper from the unions last year when Pacific Brands sacked more than 1,400 workers and shipped machinery to China, including equipment funded by the Australian taxpayer. These may be difficult and unpalatable issues for some on the other side, but they are part of the debate about the long-term sustainability of the industry. I am pleased to say that the coalition will continue to strongly support the textile, clothing and footwear industry and will continue to highlight cases like the Defence fabric fiasco, where the Rudd government’s actions were planets away from its rhetoric. Certainly, when the Rudd government makes a decision that is clearly not in the national interest, as was the case with the Defence contract, we will be running after it and holding it to account.

In a sense the jury is still out on this current bill. While the bill does replace the TCF Post-2005 Strategic Investment Program, it is important to note that the bill does not actually contain the detail of the replacement scheme. It provides only the authority when enacted for a scheme coming within the broad parameters of the bill to be formulated. So, once again, we are being asked to take this government on trust and to sign a blank cheque, leaving them to fill in the details. This leaves me particularly uncomfortable because we have seen time and time again with this government—and you have to look at how people behave on past experience to make a judgment of them—that part of the problem, as has been in the past, is the devil is in the detail. We have only to look at the utterly, disgraceful botched installation batts program and its tragic outcomes to see that the devil is indeed in the detail and the lack of responsibility that has attached to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts in that program. We have seen other programs where a lack of detail has caused enormous waste of taxpayers’ dollars at a time when there is record debt mounting for future generations to pay back. We have seen the expensive and highly wasteful Building the Education Revolution program that has produced particular gems such as a $250,000 library for a one-person school. Now it has been revealed that some of the building works cost nearly 10 times normal commercial rates.

That is what happens when you do not have details of government programs properly scrutinised. We have seen a whole stream of ineffective and ultimately abandoned programs like Fuelwatch, GroceryWatch and the absolute budget blow-out of the National Broadband Network. The list goes on. Time and time again we have seen this government prove that it is incapable of delivering effective, efficient and well-run programs. It is very big on rhetoric and spin and being seen to run from one media circus to another, but when it comes to the real world, when it comes to the nuts and bolts, when it comes to delivering, it fails miserably and I am sure all its very expensive focus group research is showing it exactly that. You just wait and see the Prime Minister and some of his ministers try some action shots in the media. They will be wearing hard hats and colourful fluoro vests, digging a hole here and there, trying to prove that they are men and women of action, not just all talk and no action. But the cynicism of Australians right across the country has been pricked and will continue to grow. It is just one of those factors that goes to continued distrust and cynicism about government in this country.

It is no wonder that there is a lot of industry concern about the operation of the new TCF scheme that is going to be facilitated by this bill. With much of the detail as to the scope of the new scheme, such as eligibility, definitions and the calculation of grants to be contained in the scheme yet to be formulated, it is difficult to properly assess the merits of the actual scheme. Without the opportunity to examine the details, we do not know, and neither does the industry, what impact it will have. It is these details that are important to industry players. I note that this concern has been reflected in submissions made to the Senate Standing Committee on Economics, to which this bill has been referred. The Australian Industry Group have implored that eligibility criteria be carefully developed and that transparency be increased and red tape reduced by streamlining the application and decision-making process. Again, these are details that will be part of the final scheme—so we are told. The Technical Textile and Nonwoven Association expressed concern in their submission, stating:

… it is disconcerting to assess and to make comment on a program with few specifics.

The Carpet Institute of Australia stated:

It is difficult to assess the Scheme because the Bill and Explanatory Memorandum provide only a basic framework.

Bruck Textiles, in its submission, observed:

… what is missing from the Bill, is the actual Scheme detail outlining how the Program will be implemented and delivered.

There is no ambiguity in that.

As I said earlier, the devil is in the detail, and it is only when we have a full picture of the details of the new scheme that a full assessment and judgment can be made on any effectiveness that the government puts in place with the new scheme. As regards the provisions contained in the bill itself, I am concerned that section 37ZM provides authority for the new scheme to allow grants to be made even where manufacturing has moved overseas. It is important that taxpayer funds are used to support Australian manufacturing—not the transfer of manufacturing offshore. I have received advice from the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research that it is not proposed to formulate a scheme that would allow grants to be made in such circumstances. If that is the case, I believe the bill needs to be amended to reflect that fact.

As I have indicated, I do have a number of concerns that are shared by industry regarding the bill and, more importantly, the new scheme that it puts in place. I do note, though, that the Senate Standing Committee on Economics, to which the bill has been referred for inquiry, is due to report by the end of the week, and I trust the government will take heed of the recommendations of this inquiry and address the genuine concerns that have been expressed by industry leaders. The department has also advised me that they will be undertaking further industry consultation in February to assist them in formulating the new scheme. It would be of considerable benefit to the industry and to good legislation to be in a position to examine both the Senate committee report and a draft of the details of the scheme.

I have outstanding concerns that amendments to the bill may be required, and these will have to be dealt with in the Senate in due course. I implore the government not only to consult widely but to give effect to the wishes and the concerns that arise out of consultations and that have already been raised by industry players—and, of course, to ensure that the details of the final scheme help strengthen the TCF industry and do not put on further strain or add another layer of bureaucracy that Australian employers simply do not need at this stage. I look forward to the Senate Economics Committee report and the government’s response to that.

6:40 pm

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak in support of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Strategic Investment Program Amendment (Building Innovative Capability) Bill 2009. I welcome the introduction the bill before us today, which is primarily designed to help strengthen Australia’s innovative capability and productive capacity in these vital industries. I welcome the longstanding efforts of the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator the Hon. Kim Carr, that are aimed at providing Australia with a clear direction on how to help deliver to these industries and their workers a strong competitive advantage in today’s globalised environment.

As chair of the House Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation—and, of course, as the member for Calwell, which has a very large manufacturing base—I work closely with Minister Carr to try and examine, report on and make recommendations regarding areas of policy that affect these industries. That is why I understand the importance of the government’s commitment to making use of the extensive consultation process which began last year. As such, I would like to take this opportunity to commend the minister’s continued efforts, which are aimed at ensuring that a strong and viable textile, clothing and footwear industry remains an integral part of our national economy and social framework. I also take this opportunity to welcome the efforts of Dr Craig Emerson, the Minister for Small Business, for introducing this important piece of legislation to the House. This bill aims to provide an important legislative authority for the new clothing and household textile building innovative capability scheme, which is a key component of the federal government’s textile, clothing and footwear innovation package.

The textile, clothing and footwear industries employ over 45,000 Australians across the country. They generate exports that are worth $1.6 billion as well as contributing $2.8 billion each year alone to our national economy. The employment patterns within these industries, particularly in regional economies, ensure that entire communities across Australia are strongly supported by the development of these industries, and of course my electorate is one such community that would obviously benefit greatly from the government’s commitments. That is why the initiatives and programs introduced by the Rudd Labor government are crucial to promoting capital investment and innovation aimed at ensuring that Australian made products continue to be a driving force for our local, regional and national economy.

In last year’s federal budget, the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, announced the establishment of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industries Innovation Council as part of the TCF innovation package, which is in addition to five other councils, all of which, to a large degree, serve to have a strong impact on driving innovation in Australian industries. In my capacity as chair of the industry committee—and, again, as the federal member for Calwell—I know too well the importance of working closely with local businesses, unions and researchers in ensuring that communities across Australia further develop a sustainable local economy that will see us well into the future. It is about combining all of our efforts and our productive, competitive and innovative capacity to ensure that Australian industries continue to lead the way in innovative design and production.

The government understands that it is about getting the balance right between an innovation-driven industry whilst maintaining a strong focus on Australian workers, the very people who actually make the things that drive our economy and strengthen our productive capacity. If we want to remain a nation that actually makes things—a country that has a strong and sustainable productive capacity, underpinned by industries which are driven by a skilled workforce—we need to ensure that governments understand the importance of strategic investments in this increasingly competitive commercial environment.

On this account, I am pleased to say that in today’s Australia we have a government willing to assume its responsibility towards the nation’s vital industries. Central to the government’s innovation agenda is the question: what role will Australia’s TCF industry play within an increasingly competitive environment? The answer to this question, of course, needs to occur within the framework of government and industry working together to secure growth in the future.

In his submission to an extensive review of the TCF industries, Professor Roy Green noted with optimism:

… there are many challenges facing the TCF industries, but they have a promising future providing they deliver products that are differentiated from those of their competitors by their uniqueness, product quality and design and branding … we can develop new capabilities in innovation, supply chain management and ethical branding.

Highlighting the important role of public policy in the future of our TCF industries, Professor Green also notes:

… the policy approach should now shift focus from assistance for structural adjustment to building innovative capability at the level of the enterprise and workplace.

As such, the federal government has recognised the need for essential reforms to ensure that our industries continue to make a strong contribution to our national economy as well as producing a uniquely Australian brand that will help guarantee the viability of our TCF industries. The Rudd Labor government is laying the groundwork for Australia’s future with a focus on innovation. The Labor government is laying the groundwork for establishing a clear competitive advantage in today’s increasingly tough economic environment. It is helping develop Australia’s capacity to promote Australian products as we move forward into an increasingly uncertain global economic environment.

The Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, recently announced in respect of developing a visible campaign aimed at promoting Australian made products:

Building Brand Australia is about promoting Australia as a nation producing quality products and services across a diverse field of activities.

We need to get the message out that we are an innovative nation and a quality supplier to the world of key products …

This March will mark the end of the line for some 298 workers and their families in my electorate. The Pacific Brands hosiery factory in the suburb of Coolaroo, which manufactured our iconic Bonds underwear and stockings, will be among the first of seven Australian plants to finally close its doors. This manufacturing plant has been a part of our community for a long time and many of my constituents have been hit hard by the decision to close the Hard Yakka factory—none more, of course, than the actual families directly affected by the closure and the disruption to what was once a secure and stable income.

It was a year ago that workers at the Coolaroo plant of Pacific Brands hosiery were told that within the next 12 months—we come to that now in February this year—they would be losing their jobs. I took the opportunity last year to quote the general manager of the Coolaroo plant, Mr Graeme Russell, from his address to a mass meeting of workers on the morning of the announcement. I quoted him because I wanted to illustrate the sort of narrative that Australian workers were being subjected to as they fronted up to work one day only to be told that they were about to lose their jobs. I want to reiterate that quote because the decision has had a devastating impact on our community. I want to make the point that this government is actually responding and doing all it can through all sorts of programs, including the one contained in this bill tonight, to save Australian jobs and to build our capacity to create jobs. Mr Graeme Russell said this to a mass meeting, and I think it is important for us to hear this narrative again:

Good morning everyone and thankyou for coming together at such short notice … This morning Pacific Brands has made an important announcement which I am here to share with you … the company has made a difficult decision to exit the majority of its manufacturing operations globally … sadly it will result in 1,850 redundancies across Australia… Regrettably, the company has decided to exit all manufacturing at Coolaroo …. The intention is to manage an orderly wind-down of manufacturing on this site that will see us cease manufacturing on or around the end of February 2010 … We will give you the next hour or so to digest the news, talk among yourselves, call home, do whatever you need to do—after that, we will need to return to work.

It is now a year later and I can say that, at this time last year, I went and visited many of the people who worked in that plant and who were about to lose their jobs. I cannot express the disbelief, shock and disappointment that they felt, because they felt that their place of work was actually profitable. They could not understand why these decisions had been taken.

I need to take issue with the member for Indi. She made reference to Pacific Brands and I think she indicated that the unions were very quiet on the closure of that plant. That is actually not true. The shop stewards at the plant in Coolaroo stood side by side with the workers. They lobbied and they did everything they possibly could to lobby the management of Pacific Brands and indeed this government. They sought every assistance they possibly could and they stood with the workforce and represented them in the best tradition of union representation. Needless to say, the Pacific Brands decision is disappointing at the very least and the closure did not reflect the strong potential for an innovative and sustainable TCF industry in Australia, which of course is underpinned by hardworking employees who are equipped with innovative skills. That is why this bill is important. As my colleague Minister Emerson described, it provides a framework for the clothing and household textile Building Innovative Capability scheme, which is a key component of the federal government’s Textile, Clothing and Footwear Innovation Package. It provides a framework in which we can go forward.

In helping manufacturers and designers increase their capacity to creatively apply their new and innovative ideas and designs, the government has committed a total of $112.5 million and an extra $5 million in assistance a year until 2015 to support and ensure that Australia’s clothing and household textile manufacturers and designers use their creative talents to help Australia lead the way in innovation and design. This targeted scheme is part of the $401 million TCF innovation package announced by the government in its last budget—redirecting $55 million towards innovation to complement the $10 million in new funding.

Talking and working closely with my constituents, I understand that, despite the economic complexities which industries operate in, for workers, their families, and the local community it is primarily about a livelihood. For them, this reality is not about abstract notions of supply and demand; nor is it about the complexities of a globalised world. It is about their jobs in a modern Australia, and this government is doing all it can to ensure that job creation in a fair workplace underpins our national economy.

We must remember that it is easy to take for granted some of the things we have long assumed were woven into our social fabric—things like the accessibility of Australian made products and the accessibility of jobs within TCF industries that are Australian owned and operated. That is why it is important that we continue to create products that really bring out the Australian character and clothes made for work in an Australian environment or, using the Australian colloquial expression, for ‘hard yakka’. That is obviously a very iconic expression in my electorate.

In looking at Melbourne alone, streets such as Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street, Northcote’s High Street or Sydney Road, which is adjacent to my electorate of Calwell, are renowned for their creativity and cosmopolitan culture. They are our iconic streets where not only locals but all Melburnians—and everybody else, for that matter—can not only go and grab something to eat but also grab something from what Australians call our ‘rag trade’. I want to commend a lot of the small business owners who bring the world of design and creativity to Melbourne and consequently help create world-class products with a uniquely Australian brand and uniquely Australian flair. It is always a joy to see small businesses with Australian designs and Australian made clothing available for sale in our streets. I would like to encourage people to buy their products. Government provides assistance on a broad level but it is really up to us to support local designers and almost one-man-show manufacturers. It is our responsibility to support them by buying their products.

This bill, along with the extensive consultations that the government had with stakeholders before announcing the innovation package last May, is a reflection of the government’s understanding that this is not an either/or debate about the continuation of traditional ‘heavy industries’ but is more about developing a ‘Brand Australia’. It is about ensuring that Australia leads by way of design and innovation with a strong, vibrant and innovative textile, clothing and footwear industry and workforce so that we continue to be a nation that makes things for us here in Australia as well as for export to the rest of the world. And, importantly, it is about placing Australia and its industries firmly into the 21st century knowledge economy. The Prime Minister has noted on a number of occasions, ‘I don’t want to be the Prime Minister of a country that doesn’t make things anymore. I’m determined to work hard to prepare our industries for the challenges of today and tomorrow—to deliver the well-paid, secure jobs we want for our kids in the future.’ This bill is a reflection not only of the Prime Minister’s commitment but of the government’s commitment and also my commitment as the member for Calwell. I commend the bill to the House.

6:56 pm

Photo of Jodie CampbellJodie Campbell (Bass, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to add my support today to the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Strategic Investment Program Amendment (Building Innovative Capability) Bill 2009 and to acknowledge the commitment and dedication of Minister Carr to the sector and his sheer hard work. The Rudd Labor government is a major supporter of the Australian TCF industry and the many thousands of hardworking Australians that it employs. This bill will rename the TCF post-2005 SIP scheme as the Clothing and Household Textile Building Innovative Capability Program and will provide an extra $5 million in assistance per year to 2015. I believe the government has taken stakeholder views into account as part of its consideration and implementation of the TCF innovation package.

The package arose out of a report compiled by Professor Roy Green and its recommendations. The report, Building innovative capability, was released on 19 September 2008. The report found that, whilst support should continue, there should be a change in focus away from structural adjustment support for industries subject to tariff reductions to providing a wider range of TCF industries with support.

In 2009, the budget’s building innovative capability program, BIC, was announced as part of the overall TCF package, which included the establishment of a TCF Industries Innovation Council. The Rudd Labor government is driving innovation and renewal in the Australian textiles, clothing and footwear industries by investing approximately $40 million in a retargeted TCF package from 2009-10 to 2015-16. The new TCF innovation package redirects $55 million towards innovation, including $10 million in new funding. As part of this textile, clothing and footwear package, the building innovative capability program will provide innovation grants to entities that manufacture, or design for manufacture, in Australia clothing and certain finished textile products. Particularly in my electorate of Bass, these grants will assist the community greatly. The clothing and household textile manufacturing sector will receive assistance under the building innovative capability program as the sector is still undergoing the greatest tariff reforms of the Australian textile, clothing and footwear industries, with tariffs set to drop from 17.5 per cent in 2009 to just five per cent in 2015.

I understand that the building innovative capability program will operate for the 2010-11 to 2014-15 income years and will increase the funding cap from the current special appropriation of $87.5 million to $112.5 million for the 2010-11 to 2014-15 income years. The package recognises the importance of the textile, clothing and footwear industries, which employs a great number of people within my electorate and over 50,000 Australians across the country. The textile, clothing and footwear industries underpin the regional economy in my electorate and across the country. This bill aims to make the Australian textile, clothing and footwear sectors stronger and more sustainable by supporting the development of new products and processes, especially at the high-tech, high-value end of the market—support that this industry in particular did not receive, and will not receive in the future, under a Liberal government.

The Rudd Labor government is not giving up, and will not give up, on the Australian textile, clothing and footwear manufacturing industries, and this bill is a prime example of that. Indeed, those on this side of the House are striving to assist those industries by building their capability through innovation and development—through forward thinking for the future. The Rudd Labor government is driving innovation and renewal in the Australian textile, clothing and footwear industries by investing $401 million in a retargeted TCF innovation package.

The Rudd Labor government has always run on the philosophy that industry policy is innovation policy. We are about helping businesses become more innovative, allowing them to meet the ongoing challenge of global competition. That is why the Rudd Labor government has fundamentally reshaped TCF support in this package, in line with the recommendations in Professor Roy Green’s review, and added very significant incentives for firms to innovate, including $10 million of new funding. Overall, an extra $55 million has been earmarked for innovation—which is the key to success for the TCF industries as they adapt to a more competitive international tariff and market environment.

I believe that it is important to stress that all current legislated support for the TCF industries remains in place. Support for investment under the strategic investment program for expenditure in 2009-10 continues in 2010-11. The funding levels under this program remain at approximately $98 million in 2009-10 and 2010-11. The strategic investment program will be replaced by the building innovative capability program, which will provide support from 2011-12. The new program is focused on clothing and household textiles, as they continue to face significant tariff reductions.

The Rudd Labor government has also created a new $30 million Textile, Clothing and Footwear Strategic Capability Program which will support innovation and is open to all TCF industries. All textile, clothing and footwear industries are also eligible for support from Enterprise Connect. Unlike those on the opposite side of the House who failed to support innovation within this industry for their 12 years in government, the Rudd Labor government will continue to work with the new Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industries Innovation Council to ensure that the sector gets stronger and more sustainable into the future.

Furthermore, under the package the government will introduce a new $30 million TCF Strategic Capability Program to support large projects that will boost innovation capacity and performance at the enterprise level; will establish a Clothing and Household Textile Building Innovative Capability Program to support innovation—based on the TCF Strategic Investment Program—with funding of approximately $23 million per annum, totalling $112.5 million; will establish a TCF Industries Innovation Council bringing together business, unions, researchers and government to champion innovation in the sector and provide strategic advice; will establish a National TCF Innovation Network to support collaboration between companies and between industry, researchers and educational institutions; will retain the TCF Small Business Program to improve business enterprise culture; will commission the TCF Industries Innovation Council to provide further advice on the introduction of a voluntary ethical quality mark, voluntary national sizing standards for clothing and footwear, and a national human measurement database; and will proceed with the 2010 TCF tariff reductions.

The $5 million per annum TCF Structural Adjustment Program, SAP, will also continue with enhanced assistance to retrenched workers, an example of the Rudd government continuing to provide a fair go to Australian working families. I am confident that the bill addresses concerns of various stakeholders within the industry and ensures that we support the Australian textile, clothing and footwear industry by building its capabilities through innovation and development, thus demonstrating forward thinking for the future. I commend the bill to the House.

7:05 pm

Photo of Richard MarlesRichard Marles (Corio, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

Can I start by thanking all those members who have contributed to debate on the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Strategic Investment Program Amendment (Building Innovative Capability) Bill 2009, because this is important legislation. It sets the framework for the Clothing and Household Textile Building Innovative Capability Program, which is a key component of the Australian government’s textile, clothing and footwear innovation package. The scheme will support and encourage the innovation that is needed to make Australia’s clothing and household textile manufacturers and designers internationally competitive. The scheme will make $112.5 million available for innovation grants. This is $5 million more per year than would have been available under the scheme which it replaces. This clearly demonstrates the Rudd government’s determination to secure the long-term viability of these very important industries. The clothing and household textile industry makes a vital contribution to Australia’s employment skills and innovation and I commend this bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.