House debates

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Constituency Statements

Newcastle Electorate: Rail Manufacturing

10:18 am

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

COVID-19 has shown us just how dependent we have become on imported goods and just how important it is that we re-establish ourselves as a nation that makes things. Earlier this month I was pleased to welcome the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, to my electorate of Newcastle. We visited the rail maintenance service centre at Varleys, one of Australia's oldest and most advanced engineering and manufacturing companies. It was great to be there, but it was also bittersweet watching the crew fixing rail wagons that had been manufactured overseas. It reminded me of all the opportunities that are lost when governments turn their backs on local workers and local industry, opting to send rail manufacturing contracts overseas instead. When will we learn from the folly of this false economy that hurts our industry, our people and our nation? The truth is: when we build quality product right here in Australia, we save time and money and we're also backing local jobs in local industry.

Newcastle has a long and proud rail manufacturing industry stretching back more than a century. We are home to Lovells Springs, Australia's last manufacturer of rail suspension springs, and the only remaining manufacturer of rail wheels now, Molycops. We built the Tangara trains more than 30 years ago, and they are still going strong today. Sadly, that cannot be said for a number of the overseas train purchases made. Too often we have purchased trains offshore that have been too long for our platforms, too wide for our tracks or too tall for our tunnels. That's why it was so outrageous when the New South Wales Liberal Premier shut the door and her mind to Australian manufacturing when she made the ludicrous statement that New South Wales and Australia were no good at building trains. Well, Labor doesn't agree. It's a travesty when Australian rail manufacturing contracts go offshore, given the world-class manufacturing capacity we have right here at home. It's even worse to watch that capability being eroded because people in power refuse to back our people and their jobs.

We know we can make things here. We can value-add here. We have high-value manufacturing that positions us to not only supply domestically but also export to the world. That's why, in the budget reply, the Leader of the Opposition announced Labor's National Rail Manufacturing Plan, to see more trains built in Australia by local workers and ensure that every dollar of federal funding spent on rail projects boosts local jobs and industries. Labor wants us to build trains here, not overseas. A Labor government would ensure that Australian products like steel are used in the production and that we train apprentices to help rebuild a bigger, stronger manufacturing sector. There's a multibillion-dollar pipeline of rail projects in the next few decades. Let's make sure that opportunity is not lost. (Time expired)