House debates

Monday, 9 November 2020


Industry, Science, Energy and Resources Portfolio

6:31 pm

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Minister for Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to open the debate tonight on the budget measures for the industry, science, energy and resources portfolio. This year, the world has been shaken and changed by COVID-19. Our government has been proactive from the start, and we put investments in industry, science, and technology at the centre of our JobMaker agenda. Jobs are at the heart of this budget. Everything we do is geared towards getting the conditions right to retain and create jobs, build business confidence and turbo charge recovery from the COVID-19 recession.

My fellow portfolio ministers, Minister Pitt and Minister Taylor, will be outlining their crucial elements for job creation through our energy and resources policies. But I'm particularly excited that the 2020-21 budget demonstrates our government's commitment to backing Australian manufacturing as well as the science and research that underpins it. The centrepiece of my portfolio's budget measure is the $1.5 billion modern manufacturing strategy, which will harness our manufacturing capability to boost competitiveness, achieve scale, and build resilience.

The $1.3 billion modern manufacturing initiative will help accelerate market-led investment, encourage collaboration between businesses, researchers and investors, and provide opportunities for innovation, growth and investment in new technologies. It will support projects within six national manufacturing priorities—resources, technologies and critical minerals processing; food and beverage; medical products; recycling and clean energy; defence; and space. By setting clear priority areas and focusing investment based on our strengths, businesses in these sectors will be better able to compete, move up the value chain and create jobs.

We are also contributing to the $50.4 million investment in the budget to help Australia become a world-leading digital economy by 2030. This will help Australian businesses better use digital tools to readjust their operations and processes in a post-COVID economy. Importantly, we're backing science, with an extra $459.2 million to CSIRO to address the impacts of COVID-19.

In the limited time we have for debate, and in the interests of my colleagues having the opportunity to speak, I will reserve further discussion in my closing remarks.

6:34 pm

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

In the lead-up to the October budget, I met with the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction to put forward my Local Power Plan. The Local Power Plan is a detailed blueprint to help regional Australians benefit from renewable energy

Over the next 30 years Australia's entire coal fleet is set to retire and be replaced by renewable energy. In the same period $1 trillion will be spent on our electricity system. The vast bulk of our new renewable energy system will be built in regional Australia in a sun belt stretching from Esperance to Gippsland and Cape York. But, without proper planning, everyday communities will miss out on the benefits of this boom. The local power plan responds to this opportunity by inserting everyday Australians into the heart of this renewable energy transition.

The Integrated Systems Plan from AEMO projects that, over the next 30 years, Australia will install 47 gigawatts of new grid-scale renewables like solar and wind farms—the equivalent of around 16,000 wind turbines; 21 gigawatts of dispatchable energy like batteries, pumped hydro and virtual power plants—the equivalent of five new Snowy Hydro schemes; and a fivefold increase in distributed solar generation like rooftop panels, which would see around 10 million households benefit from rooftop solar.

Just today the New South Wales government announced a groundbreaking plan to attract $32 billion worth of private investment in renewables infrastructure over a decade, generating 6,300 construction jobs and 2,800 ongoing jobs and lower prices substantially. The question is: who benefits from this; and are the regional communities where this will take place brought along in the process?

Communities want to be involved, Minister. Over the last nine months, I've been speaking to regional communities across the country like the Walwa Bush Nursing Centre, the Bonnie Doon Recreation Reserve and the Yackandandah Community and their battery, and many more that want to access these benefits.

The Upper Murray wants to build local renewables as part of the bushfire recovery. A local school got in touch just last week, saying they have excess land and would love to do something like this. Councils in Melbourne are contacting me, saying they'd love to go 100 per cent renewable by purchasing renewables from our regional communities. The local power plant is a way to unlock these benefits for the whole country, not just my electorate.

So, first, the local power scheme will establish 50 local power hubs across regional Australia to support communities to develop their own renewable energy projects. Each hub can provide technical and project support to community energy groups and work with them to access a new $310 million local power fund to provide strategic development capital. Secondly, in the plan, the Underwriting New Community Investment, or UNCI scheme, will provide financial certainty to new mid-scale energy generation and storage projects that are at least 51 per cent community owned. The UNCI scheme could unlock billions of dollars of private investment to support communities to build their local energy independence and resilience. Thirdly, the Community Renewable Investment Scheme, or the CRIS, will implement a new requirement for any new large-scale renewable developments in Australia to enable local communities to purchase 20 per cent of the project value.

There are so many benefits to this, and I have three questions for the minister. Minister, why didn't you provide funding for the local power plan in the budget? Why didn't you provide any funding for local community energy in general? And what are the government's plans to support everyday Australians in regional Australia to benefit from the renewables boom that's already starting to unfold?

6:38 pm

Photo of John AlexanderJohn Alexander (Bennelong, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thanks to the minister for science for her words and her commitment to science and innovation in this country. Science has always been the bedrock of progress. We are where we are today, largely because of the innovations and developments of various scientists around the world who have studied to understand our world or developed technologies to make the world better. But, as we look around us at the pandemic which is ravaging our lives, our desire for a scientific breakthrough is as great as ever before. We know that we cannot get back to life as it was without a vaccine and we know that when this vaccine comes it will be delivered by members of the global scientific community who have been working together to bring this to us in record time.

Bennelong is famously Australia's capital of innovation, and so it is fitting to see that the first vaccine produced in this country, the Oxford vaccine, has been designed by a company based in Bennelong, AstraZeneca. I was delighted to be joined by the Prime Minister a few months ago at the announcement that we are investing in this drug and, like all Australians, I can't wait to see it being administered across this country.

Australia hasn't put all our eggs in one basket though. We've also signed agreements with Novavax and Pfizer to get their vaccines to Australians, should they prove successful. The Pfizer vaccine is particularly exciting. It is a mRNA vaccine, which is a radically new approach to the way that vaccines are developed. Rather than the old approach, which inserts an inert virus into the body to strengthen the immune system, the mRNA vaccine gives instructions to the body to make proteins specific to the virus, which the immune system then recognises and produces a response to, to teach immune cells directly. As a recent emigrant from Bennelong, we're still happy to claim Pfizer's innovations as our own! While these companies, along with the University of Queensland—and I can't find a link there with Bennelong, no matter how hard I try!—have reached agreement with the Australian government, they are not alone in the search for a vaccine. There are many pharmaceutical companies in Bennelong, and they all have skin in the game in the search for a vaccine. We don't know who will get there first, but we know that it will come soon and that it will be a scientific response to this horrific virus that nature has thrown at us.

We clearly have the genius and the drive to develop these vaccines here. One thing we're lacking, though, is the manufacturing capabilities to make them here as well. While CSL has once again been a life saver and agreed to manufacture many of these vaccines, it is sad that we have to rely on this one company. Wouldn't it be great if each of these companies could go to the next step and employ Australians while they make the vaccines here too? That's why it's great to see that the government has committed $1.5 billion in the Modern Manufacturing Strategy. This strategy will create a manufacturing sector for a modern Australian economy by helping our businesses grow, become more resilient and boost their competitiveness on the global stage. This strategy recognises that we must play to our strengths. We must target sectors that allow us to generate full growth by focusing where we have a comparative advantage, where we have the capacity to harness emerging opportunities or where we have a strategic interest. That's why we are focusing our efforts on the six new national manufacturing priorities, one of which includes medical products.

We know that the main reason we don't have more manufacturing here is the costs of doing business, which are some of the highest in the world. We must find other ways to bring costs down if we want to be competitive. One of the better ways of doing this is by examining our energy costs, which brings me to my question to Minister Taylor. More than 850,000 Australians are employed in manufacturing in the manufacturing sector, and we know how crucial affordable, reliable energy is for our manufacturing industries. Businesses across my electorate rely on affordable, reliable energy. I ask the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction to update us on how the budget delivers on the government's plan to ensure businesses and families in my electorate have access to the affordable, reliable and secure energy they need while at the same time reducing emissions. How does our plan deliver these outcomes while also protecting our economy, jobs and investment?

6:43 pm

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

As the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology outlined in the House recently, there should be no surprises. In the government's six national manufacturing priorities list, because it was developed on a solid foundation of evidence, that is entirely correct. But let me make this very important point as clear as possible: the reason the evidence is solid and why there were no surprises is that the evidence was developed years ago under the last Labor government with the announcement of its 2013 plan for Australian jobs. Let's be clear: these were Labor's ideas; these were Labor's priority areas. We're happy for this government to be copying what we did, because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; however, what is particularly galling—and it seems to be a common practice with this government—is that after they formed government they abolished Labor's plan. Then, after seven years of doing nothing, waiting for a pandemic, they've now rediscovered the importance of manufacturing. Actually, they didn't quite do nothing. They did worse than nothing, because they also chased the car industry out of Australia during those seven years as well.

The minister claims that this is about setting priorities and aligning efforts so that everyone is pulling in one direction. What a shame they spent seven years swimming in the opposite direction to the plan that was already in place in 2013. What if they had stuck to Labor's plan, instead of abolishing it as part of their 2014 budget? Manufacturing in this country would then be full of thriving businesses, employing thousands more workers, and we would have been better placed to face this global health and economic challenge. The government's track record when it comes to manufacturing is, quite simply, appalling. Nothing could be more emblematic, as I mentioned before, than having ripped out $500 million of support and goading the Australian car industry into leaving our shores, which, remarkably, they did.

This government has failed to deliver on an energy policy, after more than 20 attempts, providing no business and investment certainty. Even the member for Bennelong just mentioned it, pointing out that it's the cost of energy to our manufacturing sector that is costing the development and support of our manufacturing sector. Seven years of this government, and things have only gotten worse. It has presided over a depletion of critical skills. It has seen the destruction of the viability of smaller manufacturers further down the supply chain. It has seen the withdrawal of private capital from research and development—it effectively tried to remove billions of dollars from the R&D tax offset. And when it comes to the fig leaf that is defence industry under this government, it, remarkably, doesn't work properly because it has no proper national industry policy to support the vitally important defence industry that our country needs.

Those opposite have spent seven years attacking and undermining Australian manufacturing, but now they want Australians to believe that they support manufacturing. What a waste of seven years! When we could have had more economic growth, we've instead seen the waste of taxpayers money. So your manufacturing plan, your business tax carry forward plan, your instant asset write-off: they all sound familiar, because they were all Labor's policies abolished by this government in 2014. When are you going to admit that your best ideas are simply a rehash of Labor policies?

6:46 pm

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank all those who have contributed to this consideration in detail, particularly the question that came from the member for Bennelong and the question from the member for Indi. Of course, the member for Bennelong focused on the importance of affordable, reliable energy for manufacturing. It is absolutely essential and it is a central pillar, focusing on affordable, reliable energy, for our JobMaker plan. We know that manufacturing uses energy in significant quantities, and Australia has relied on that affordable energy for a long, long time—not just decades; beyond that—to provide those jobs for manufacturers right across Australia, in the member for Bennelong's electorate, and right across regional Australia. The member for Indi pointed out the importance of energy across regional Australia.

In contrast to what we've just heard from the member for Burt, we are seeing electricity price reductions; indeed, we've seen seven straight quarters of CPI reductions in electricity. We have never seen that before in this country. And that's in parallel with—

Mr Conroy interjecting

The member for Shortland doesn't like this, because it's the truth. The member for Shortland should be standing up for his coalminers in his electorate.

This follows on from wholesale electricity price reductions that we're seeing across the board. Indeed, before COVID struck we'd seen reductions in wholesale electricity prices of over 40 per cent across the National Electricity Market. That is good news for manufacturers. That is good news for households. That is good news for small businesses. Our budget initiatives are all focused on locking in those gains and making sure they're passed on. We passed legislation, which was opposed by those opposite 13 times, through the parliament to make sure wholesale price reductions are passed through to consumers.

Included in the budget are important initiatives like the $53 million microgrid initiative. This is about making sure regional communities get access to those opportunities as new technologies emerge. Farmers across Australia understand microgrids. The Southern Cross windmill was a microgrid. They've been using microgrids for a long, long time. The technology is changing and local communities across regional Australia can make use of it. That's why it's in the budget. But we also stepped in in the budget to make sure that Liddell is going to be replaced with capacity that can drive down prices. Liddell is in the member for Shortland's electorate.

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

No, it's not!

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, right next door! The member for Shortland should be backing this in. He should be backing this in, and he sits there silently because he doesn't like the technology.

Importantly, we're taking real and practical action to drive down emissions. We have strong targets, we have a clear plan and we have an enviable track record. On June 30, we came to the end of the Kyoto era of emissions reductions, and we beat our targets by 430 million tonnes. When those opposite left government back in 2013, they forecast that emissions this year would be over 630 million tonnes. This year they are 530 million tonnes and likely to be lower—we'll see in the next few months. That's 100 million tonnes lower than those opposite forecast with a carbon tax. And how have we done that? Technology not taxes. We deploy the very best technologies across Australia to make sure Australians can deliver those emissions reductions in a way that's consistent with job creation and investment. We've seen record job creation across Australia during that time frame. The 850,000 jobs in manufacturing that the member for Bennelong talked about are absolutely crucial to this country.

I thank the member for Indi for her important question about regional communities and microgrids. Can I strongly encourage her to get her constituents involved with soil carbon projects, hydrogen—an enormous opportunity for Australia—clean steel and aluminium, of course, which will rely heavily on hydrogen. A great opportunity for Australia. The gas industry will play a role for many years to come, alongside coal. Balance in our system is absolutely crucial, but these technologies are essential to the future of energy in this country.

6:52 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

It's always interesting to witness the so-called Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction talking about energy policies, because the great thing with this minister is that if you don't like his current policy another one will soon come along. They are on 22 energy policies since they've come into power. Twenty-two! In fact, they had four energy policies in 14 days in one period, which is spectacular. The truth is that this is another thought bubble from a government that is out of ideas. The so-called technology road map is lacking completely in commitments. At estimates two weeks ago, evidence from the department said not to confuse commitments with projections. It is yet another thought bubble from this government.

I'm glad the minister talked about 2020 and how they're going to hit the emissions reduction target. I've got the government's own documents here that show how they're going to hit 2020. They're going to hit 2020 by killing manufacturing; reducing fuel consumption in the manufacturing sector—that is, chasing away the auto sector—and reducing petrol consumption in the transport sector, because economic growth is so slow that we don't carry as many goods as we used to; and because of the drought. Let me repeat: how will they hit 2020? By killing manufacturing, by killing economic growth and through the ongoing drought. That is how they hit 2020. What a joke.

How will they hit their so-called 2030 target? First, lower electricity demand—again, because they've killed manufacturing. Second, growth in renewable energy due to state government commitments. It's their own document saying this. It's not them doing anything on renewable energy; it is state government commitments driving increased renewable energy. That still leaves them only 16 per cent below 2005 levels. They need to do another 10 per cent to even hit their own inadequate target. And that brings in the illegal Kyoto carryover units—illegal because no other country recognises them. They don't exist in the Paris treaty at all. They only hit 16 per cent through killing manufacturing. They then use another 10 per cent by illegal Kyoto carryover units that no other government will accept.

This neglects the other great truth, that they don't have a 2050 net zero emissions objective, which is what the Paris accord signs up to. With the election of the Joe Biden government in America, we now have 70 per cent of our trading partnerships with countries that have committed to net zero emissions by 2050 or shortly thereafter. Over 60 per cent of the world's emissions are covered by those countries. We are left as a pariah state under this government because this government will not commit to the 2050 net zero emissions target, which is what they signed up to with the Paris accord. What are the implications for Australia because of their criminal negligence in climate policy? We are facing—

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Shortland will resume his seat. The member for Shortland cannot impute criminal assertions on members opposite. The member for Shortland will withdraw that statement.

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw. But I said 'criminal negligence'. That is not criminality.

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Shortland will withdraw the statement.

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw. This government is recklessly indifferent to the future of this country. They are negligent and they need protection from people to cover up the fact they are not committed to taking action on climate change. We will face carbon border adjustments and we'll face border tariffs that will kill our export industries, because this government does nothing. The EU has foreshadowed it. The Biden party has already foreshadowed it. The member for Dawson may not accept that Biden will soon be the US president, but everyone else does. They have been very open in saying that they will not allow countries a free ride, which is what will happen under this government because of their lack of a net zero emissions target. Not only does it make good science sense to sign up to net zero emissions; it makes good economic sense because we will face border tariff adjustments and we'll miss out on the opportunities of becoming a renewable energy superpower, all under a government that have had 22 energy policies and lie to workers about what is going on. They lie to workers about the change that is coming down the line and they lie to workers by saying they don't need to do anything. In the end, they betray the future of those workers, they betray the workers in regions like mine, they continue to lie about climate policy, they betray the future of this country, and they should be ashamed.

6:57 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In this consideration in detail, I have a lot of questions on issues that I'll ask the minister for resources. He's doing a fantastic job. We support resources, particularly the coal industry on this side of the chamber, unlike those on that side, and particularly the last member who spoke. The member for Shortland should be out there supporting the coal industry and should be out there supporting the coal workers, but he's not, and that's why he got such a massive swing against him at the last election, and that's why they'll be coming for him at the next election. The lack of support that he gives the industry that employs his workers is absolutely disgraceful. It's absolutely disgraceful that he could turn his back on people who would have backed his party through thick and thin. What we need is more people in this chamber backing the workers in the coal sector.

I am fully backing the workers in the coal sector. I know the minister for resources and northern Australia does. We were out there before the last election, pushing for the opening of the Galilee Basin—a very important project that is already creating jobs in my electorate, in Townsville, and right through North and Central Queensland. I have to say: opening the Galilee Basin was a great achievement. There will be coal exported out of the Galilee, and we hope that more players will come and open it even further. The minister might want to touch on the coal sector and some of the things the government is seeing. In the face of this global pandemic, what we've seen is the resources sector punching on for the national economy, generating record exports, royalties and taxes so that we can deliver more in terms of infrastructure and more in terms of services. The latest GDP figures apparently confirm the resilience of Australia's resources sector as the pandemic grips the rest of the world. I understand that the national accounts show that the mining sector actually grew by 0.2 per cent in the June quarter, compared to an economy-wide fall of seven per cent. It just shows that our economy is still plugging away because of the resources sector. That's important.

More recently, we've announced gas exploration. I think this is a great opportunity for regions like mine. I know that the northern Bowen Basin is part of the area that we'll be looking at in terms of gas exploration. It would be interesting to know why the government is investing in these strategic basin plans. I know it's all about jobs, but perhaps the minister might want to give a bit more additional information on that. How will additional areas be decided other than the northern Bowen Basin, and how will energy consumers benefit from those plans? I know personally many businesses in my region and elsewhere that are going to benefit from more gas being put onto the market. This is very important stuff. I'm very appreciative that the minister has announced this and that the government is going in this direction.

I turn to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. It is an outfit that I have legitimately criticised in the past, as someone in the government, that there should have been changes made that actually streamlined things and made it easier for people to access the finance out of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. I understand that changes have been made recently that have enabled easier access to that finance. I've recently spoken with the CEO and people within the NAIF. I have also spoken with a number of different potential applicants that are looking forward to these changes coming into effect. So I'm wondering if the minister could detail to us what have been the outcomes of the NAIF's investment in Northern Australia thus far? He might refer to things such as Signature Beef, a processing facility in my region which is going to generate hundreds of jobs during construction and about 70 ongoing jobs. That is a fantastic project. You may able to talk about others. What is the government hoping to achieve through the further reforms to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility? Because we want to see more money pumping out to the north for the development of tourism projects, manufacturing projects, for the development of any sort of project that is going to provide an economic return, create jobs and get the north moving again as we move out of this pandemic.

7:02 pm

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

My question to the minister is why, with this budget and these reckless targets, is he putting the lives and futures of millions of Australians at risk? Why is the government failing in its first duty to keep Australians safe? We had evidence from the Bureau of Meteorology, which I presume the government accepts despite efforts from its backbench to undermine it, we had evidence at the Senate estimates from the Bureau of Meteorology that said we are on track in Australia for warming of 4.4 degrees by the end of this century—during the lifetime of Australia's primary school students.

The minister for science, if she believes in science, might have some interest in what the Bureau of Meteorology is saying. They are saying our targets are so low that we are on track to create a hellscape in this country by the end of the century, during the lifetime of Australia's primary school students. 4.4 degrees in Australia is what your own bureau is telling you.

What does the government do? The government comes along in the budget and decides to make it worse. Australia signed up to the Paris Agreement. One of the goals in the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to well below two degrees. Why? Because that is the point of no return. Cross two degrees and climate change becomes a chain reaction. You cannot rein it in. Australia has warmed by 1.4 degrees. That was what was behind the devastating bushfires that we saw, and that is what made the drought that we have been living through worse.

In this country we are exposed to the ravages of climate change and the threat it imposes as much as, if not more, than any other country. Our own Bureau of Meteorology is telling us that, unless we massively increase our climate targets by 2030, we are on track for over four degrees of warming in this country. That means, during my daughter's lifetime, a 92 to 95 per cent decline in productivity of our agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin. It means removing our ability to feed ourselves. It means the kind of bushfires we have just seen happening not every few years, but becoming a regular occurrence. It means droughts that we experience becoming more severe. It means that when cyclones hit they will pack an even bigger punch than they are packing at the moment. It is why president-elect Biden has said that climate change is an existential threat. It is a crisis and it is an emergency.

My question to this government is: what is your temperature target that underpins this budget? Let's assume you are going to meet your reckless targets of 26 to 28 per cent emission cuts by 2030—which you won't without dodgy credits, but let's assume you are—what is that consistent with Australia warming by? Do you accept the Bureau of Meteorology's evidence to Senate estimates that Australia is on track to warm by 4.4 degrees during the lifetime of Australia's primary school students, and, if so, what does that mean for Australian farmers? What does it mean for Australian infrastructure? What does it mean for everyone who lives in a bushfire-prone region? One can only be left with the conclusion, after looking at this budget and seeing the money that it has for coal and gas, that the government wants Australia to warm by 4.4 degrees during the lifetime of my kids, during the lifetime of every primary school student in this country. If they want that they should have the courage to explain to everyone who cares about climate change that they are torching Australia.

My next question for the minister is: is he prepared to do what Joe Biden and others have called for, and that is accept countries in our region putting carbon tariffs on our export thermal coal, because clearly this government doesn't seem to accept the science. This government is not prepared to limit global warming to less than two degrees, so are you prepared to let others do the work for us and let South Korea, India and China put tariffs on our thermal coal, which is putting Australia at risk? Seventy-five per cent of our export thermal coal market has just signed up to net zero emissions. You don't seem to have a plan for it, so at the least, Minister, will you let others put tariffs on and make the plan for you, so that we can protect coal workers and protect coal communities from the negligence and recklessness of this Liberal government?

7:07 pm

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank all contributors to the debate so far on consideration in detail. I will obviously be speaking about my component in the ministerial portfolio on resources and northern Australia.

Firstly, I acknowledge the contribution of my good friend and colleague the member for Dawson. The member for Dawson made some good points, particularly around the resources sector and what it has managed to do during the pandemic this year. Once again, at every opportunity, whether I'm speaking publicly or privately or here in this place, I want to put on the record my thanks to those hard-working men and women in the resources sector who have gone above and beyond in the last few months to ensure not only that they stayed employed but that they continue to drive that industry forward. They continue to maintain Australia's reputation as a reliable supplier, as a supplier of resources and energy right around the world in all circumstances, to our trading partners—many of whom we've had for decades. Our reputation has been enhanced by their actions, by their commitments, by the things they've had to do, including being away from their families for a very long period of time. Some of them are still away, given border closures and other requirements for COVID pandemic management. In terms of the portfolio, we will continue to drive the resources sector. We will continue to support it. We will continue to support the coal sector.

I note the contribution of the member for Melbourne. What I would say to the member for Melbourne is that I've met with any number of proponents who are invested heavily in Australia, from Japan and other countries, and what they've said very clearly is their commitment is not a commitment to no coal. Their commitment is a commitment to technology. Their commitment is a commitment to ensuring they can continue to use that reliable source of energy, which is Australia.

We have significant amounts of money in the budget, including $28.3 million in the investment in the five strategic basin plans to develop gas. The first of those will be the Beetaloo Basin. Mr Deputy Speaker, I would call to your attention to some recent media from one of the junior explorers up in the Beetaloo doing that exploration work right now: 'This is the hottest play on the planet.' This is a significant find in the Beetaloo. It will continue to drive our economy and manufacturing in this country for many, many years to come. It is our intention to ensure that we can provide gas at an affordable rate to ensure that manufacturers in this country are internationally competitive and have every single opportunity we can manage to provide to employ more Australians to drive our economy, to continue to provide growth. In the post-COVID environment, what matters is: we must ensure there are jobs for our people, that there are opportunities for our youth and they can be employed, educated and trained. That is what we have committed to as a government.

Our plan for an economic recovery post COVID is about driving the gas sector, the manufacturing sector, the agricultural sector. I see the minister for industry is here. There's an incredibly important plan around the manufacturing sector which I'm sure she'll inform the Federation Chamber about later.

It's not just about gas. We continue to invest in providing the facts in this debate: $13.7 million for CSIRO's Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance—better known as GISERA—to be out on the ground, countering those activists who are out arguing about gas but not based on fact. GISERA is a recognised scientific body. They do extensive work—more than 40 of these programs in recent years. We've continued to commit funding to drive facts into communities so people can make their own decisions. Some $36.9 million over four years and a further $29.2 million over the two years to 2025-26 to extend the nation investment window by five years, another important driver of our economy.

Some $2.4 billion of the $5 billion allocated have been investment decisions made from the NAIF. That is incredibly important for the north—that source of finance, that source of confidence, that source of determination that will continue to drive our northern agenda which is being lifted by the people of the north: if it's good for the north, it's good for Australia. We continue to support the north into the future: $124.5 million to expand Geoscience Australia's Exploring for the Future program. Exploring for the Future 2, following Exploring for the Future 1, is a $100 million investment and another $125 million to identify the resources we will need moving into the future.

What we know about this program is that it's estimated more than a trillion dollars in the last round of resources across this country. We know how important that will be to drive jobs into the future and decision-making by exploration companies and others. If we want jobs in this nation, we must continue to support sectors like the resources sector and northern Australia because they will help us with what we need to do.

7:12 pm

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

I join with the minister for resources and northern Australia in thanking our resources workers for the great work they have done in very trying and difficult conditions to provide the economic engine room to support our nation to ensure that it is not in an even worse economic position than it currently finds itself in.

On behalf of those workers, there are some issues I need to raise in respect of the resources industry because Labor has said for a long time now that the Morrison government has lacked a cohesive overall policy position on Australia's relationship with China, instead outsourcing its commentary effectively to its backbench. This approach is now leaving Australia vulnerable.

In recent weeks we've been hearing increasing and concerning reports about our trade relationship with China. Our relationship with China is increasingly complex and must be managed in the national interest. Australia must stand up for itself and our national integrity. The economic security of our nation is fundamental to the security of our nation as well. So, it is of great disappointment to me that the minister for resources has indeed now left the chamber while I'm raising this very important issue.

It is clear that the Morrison government has no plan to address the escalating concerns of Australian exporters which are leaving Australia, and especially Western Australia, economically vulnerable. This is a $149 billion trade relationship that is now at risk. While much of that trade is in agricultural produce, resources such as coal have been affected and there are persistent rumours of impacts on iron ore out of Western Australia. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of Western Australian jobs that are at risk and even more across the country.

China is Western Australia's largest merchandise export market. Western Australia exported some $96.1 billion worth of goods to China last year with the top exports being iron ore, petroleum products and gold—all resources. I ask the minister—or I would if he'd stayed in the chamber: what is it that he and this Morrison government are doing to support our resources industry and its trade and the businesses that rely on it and the employees that rely on them?

We don't want diplomacy via press conferences or backbench outbursts. What we want to know is: are there measured, diplomatic and productive conversations being held with Chinese counterparts to solidify our vital trade relationship?

In today's Australian we read that businesses involved in this $149 billion export trade to China are urging the government to find a circuit-breaker to mend this relationship. Can the minister guarantee Australian traders and exporters to China—and promise all Australians whose jobs rely on these exports—that these goods won't be blocked on arrival? Given the ongoing tensions with our largest trading partner, why has the government only just realised that diversification is important? Why has the government failed to support Australian exporters to diversify their markets? Why has the government walked away from its commitment to boost market access across India? What we as a nation want to know is: how is this unrest affecting the budget bottom line? Is the government having diplomatic, adult conversations with its Chinese counterparts, and what is this government doing to support industry, our economy, our economic security and our national interest?

7:16 pm

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Like the first 20 years of the 20th century, innovation has exploded in the first 20 years of the 21st century. While 100 years ago innovation like the moving picture, the telephone and even the car saw changes the likes that had not been seen, I would argue that we are seeing an equally incredible flourish of innovation in the first 20 years of this century—innovation in energy and electric vehicles, innovation in medical technology and, most importantly of all, innovation in the digital world.

With the paint not yet dry on the digital revolution, the speed of this innovation and its impact on society continues to provide incredible opportunities. Just like 100 years ago, the opportunities of a flourishing world of innovation, of ideas and of science are impacting profoundly on the way that we work, play and even live. Just like 100 years ago when innovations in science led to women joining the workforce like never before, so too have they done so 100 years later. Just like 100 years ago when the world faced the Spanish flu pandemic that killed 20 to 50 million people, so too are we facing a subsequent economic crisis globally.

But things are different this time because science and innovation and the digital connectivity of the world can deliver solutions at speed. Let's just look at the Spanish flu, for instance. A hundred years ago we couldn't even diagnose if someone had the flu because we had no pathology tests. A hundred years ago we couldn't do what we have done this time in Australia with COVID tracking and tracing, and we certainly couldn't do rapid public health messaging. So too with regard to our economic response. A hundred years ago we couldn't do what the Morrison government has done, which is to prepare, through modelling, for the future of our economic response. I would say that science and innovation have made sure that our response to the dual economic and health crisis of COVID has never been answered in a more rapid and fulsome way.

It is important, however, that we do not rest on our laurels. We need to remain vigilant towards COVID, through our quarantining and contact tracing being of the highest quality and standards, so we that can avoid the worst outcome, which is of course lockdown. This has unfortunately been necessary in my home state of Victoria. But so too from an economic perspective we can't rest on our laurels as the lucky country. For too long we've relied on the natural resources of this country, whether it was on the back of the sheep, on the gold rushes of previous eras or on the export resource boom of today. We need to prepare ourselves to take the opportunities that a post-COVID world will present.

That is why I welcome the recent announcement that the Morrison government has made in manufacturing: a new future for our nation through the $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy. This strategy will create a manufacturing sector for a modern Australian economy by making our businesses scale, become more resilient and boost their competitiveness on the global stage. This strategy will help drive our economic recovery and our future. This is not the old manufacturing where men bent metal. This is the new manufacturing—smart technology driving the way that we do things through automation, through augmented intelligence and through smart thinking. As the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, who I'd like to acknowledge here today, has so eloquently put: it's a declaration to the world and to private investors that Australia is not only 'open for business, but we mean business'.

I sit on the Joint Standing Committee for Trade and Investment Growth as well as the Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources. I'm proud that both of these committees are undertaking very important inquiries that speak to the issue of modern manufacturing and its future in Australia. The first is an inquiry into diversification of trading partners, having handed down the Trade transformation report earlier this year, where the committee clearly identified that we not only needed to diversify our trade exports, but that we also needed to diversify our trading partners. The second is the inquiry by the Standing Committee on Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources looking at waste and recycling, so that we can build a modern manufacturing industry that helps us meet our climate change commitments for global emission reductions.

This is why I welcome the Morrison government's wide-ranging commitment to building modern manufacturing in Australia. Lastly I would like to mention some important local businesses: Microbio, which is looking at mRNA technology, and Edge Electrons, which is about voltage reduction to reduce emissions. My question to the minister is: how will the government's modern manufacturing initiative help these local businesses

7:21 pm

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

It is with great sorrow that I rise now to speak about the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and find that the Minister for Northern Australia has abandoned us this evening. But I'm very pleased to see that the portfolio minister has remained with us for over an hour now.

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility—or, as it's more often referred to by those in the sector, the no actual infrastructure fund—has been a farce from the beginning. It's a $5 billion fund created by this coalition government to finance the construction of job-generating infrastructure in Northern Australia—which sounds good when you read it like that—and it is required to consult with Infrastructure Australia before providing loans to any project valued more than $100 million. Well, it sounded good, but it took them more than 1,000 days after its creation in 2016 to refer a single major project to Infrastructure Australia for formal assessment. The people of Northern Australia need and deserve to have well-paid and secure jobs and the right infrastructure projects that will stimulate the investment needed to secure and sustain those jobs.

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility was due to expire next year, but still had $3 billion left unused, which has now seen the government have to extend the length of this facility out to 2026 because of the ineffectiveness of the facility to date. They are literally rewarding a lack of action. It was revealed in estimates that after five years of operation the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund has only released $218.4 million. That's less than five cents out of every dollar allocated to the facility. This no actual infrastructure fund of the government is the greatest example of all of how this government is focused solely on the headlines and not on delivery. The NAIF could be the perfect opportunity now to kick-start the COVID-19 recovery across northern Australia. There are so many resources projects that could already be underway across Western Australia if the NAIF got its act together. But we all know that this government much prefers to have talk than actual action.

After having concluded its fourth review in four years, more recommendations were made to fix it. In my consultations with industry, the key line from them was this: 'If you could qualify for funding through NAIF, you could already have got the money from a bank. This has been providing absolutely no benefit whatsoever.' There was a review in 2017 under Tony Shepherd going into the investment mandate governance relationship with the states and territories. In July 2018, the Senate Economics References Committee tabled their report on the governance and operations of the NAIF. In 2019, the Auditor-General released a report on the governance and integrity arrangements of the NAIF.

In the staff remuneration 2018-19 report, the NAIF claimed that they were running an independent review of NAIF's staff remuneration policy and associated practices. Finally, before the select committee on 7 August 2020, the CEO admitted that staff bonuses were not based in any way on funding actually being released. Both the fund and its staff are actually being rewarded for no actual infrastructure. There is nothing connecting their outputs to what they're doing. The NAIF has been such a failure that they've had to extend its lifetime by another five years just to try to get the original funding out the door—and all of that at a cost of $62.1 million just to run it. How can the minister justify spending six times more on the administrative costs of extending the lifetime of this fund than the total amount that has been spent in Queensland through the fund over the last five years?

7:25 pm

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Minister for Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

Right at the moment I feel as if I'm standing at a fork in a road. The low road would take me down the path of doing the tit-for-tat, going backwards and forwards, having the cheap political shots. I'm actually not going to do that tonight. I'm going to take what I believe is the high road. I'm going to correct the record where it needs to be corrected, but I'm going to concentrate my remarks around the contribution that has been made by members such as the member for Higgins, the member for Bennelong and the member for Dawson, who have spoken very positively and proactively about the future that Australia faces and the opportunities that are available for all Australians, given where we are at this point in time.

Just to respond to a couple of comments that were made by those opposite—I say this really for completeness only—firstly, in relation to car manufacturing, Mitsubishi announced on 5 February 2008 and Ford announced on 23 May 2013 that they would be closing their manufacturing operations here in Australia. I'm not going to go down the path of pointing out which party was in government at that point in time. I will just leave that there. I say that purely for completeness.

In relation to the manufacturing priorities that this government announced and included in the budget, what I can say about that is that we did consult very widely. We looked at where Australia's comparative and competitive advantages were and where we needed to make sure that we had capacity and capability for our strategic needs into the future. I have had the opportunity to look at the 2013 plan for Australian jobs. It does mention defence at one point. It doesn't mention recycling that I can find. It does mention clean energy as a related policy that is already in one of the appendices to that document. Space is mentioned very briefly under an infrastructure heading—I can find that on page 45 of that document. I guess the important point for me, though, in terms of today's debate, is that at this point in time, if those opposite are saying that they have already announced these initiatives, I would encourage them to just get on board. This is too important an issue for the constant backwards and forwards, the cheap political point-scoring.

We are at a point in Australia where we have an opportunity to recreate manufacturing here, to modernise it, to look at how we can develop the jobs of the future and how we can build on the very strong base that we have, whether that is with trade, with industrial relations, with our deregulation agenda, with the $7 billion that we are pouring in to skill Australian for the future, or whether it's looking at how we use science and technology as an enabler. The $1.5 billion manufacturing strategy that has been announced has the opportunity to deliver not just over the next four years but over the next decade. I think it is incumbent on all senators and members in this place to look at what the opportunities are and to see how we can make sure that we are creating the opportunities that Australians are looking for and need.

The feedback that I have received from industry—it's a broad range of industry stakeholders—is that they see the manufacturing strategy as a once-in-a-generation at least or once-in-a-lifetime lifetime opportunity for them to build their businesses and to be part of the future in those clear national manufacturing priorities that we have announced. So stakeholders are engaged. They are looking forward to how we roll over this strategy. But let me be clear: we are not going to be rushed into announcing how this money is going to be spent without doing the due diligence, without making sure we are consulting and getting the right advice to make sure that the money is targeted and is going to deliver exactly what is needed now and into the future. This is a very positive time for us. I commend the bill the chamber.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Debate adjourned.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:30