Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Matters of Public Importance
I have received a letter from the honourable member for Chifley proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government's failure to be on the side of Australian manufacturing and the jobs it creates.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
It's been 75 years since our 16th Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, took office. He was a great prime minister who was responsible for so many nation-building projects. He was a great prime minister; he was responsible for the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme, he helped set up the Australian National University, he set up the precursor to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, he pushed for public housing and he reorganised and enlarged the CSIRO. But the best vision of Ben Chifley was of him standing next to the Holden FX, the first Holden car, the first mass-produced vehicle in this country, which came out of Fishermans Bend in Melbourne. It's a point of pride to us because manufacturing is in the DNA of the Australian Labor Party. It means something deeply to us. It reflects a faith in Australian know-how, the capability of our workforce and the value of manufacturing to Australian wealth, jobs and supporting small business. It's why we fight so strongly for it.
The value of manufacturing in this nation has been particularly underscored over the course of last 12 months. The pandemic exercised so much pressure on the economy, but at its height we were worried about what was happening with facial masks, gowns and hand sanitiser. Where were those things getting made? They were all in short supply. There were concerns about the manufacture of potential vaccines.
Over the last few weeks I've been visiting manufacturers to hear about what they're doing. I'm proud, as the members who represent them are proud, to see what they're able to do: delivering for customers, creating work and generating jobs. But they still struggle with finding the skills, getting the support for R&D and getting financial support from banks. I spoke with one manufacturer who said: 'I've been a loyal customer of the bank for 10 years. It's easier to get a million dollars for a home than $500,000 to expand my business.' They want to see support for them to expand their businesses and generate jobs. That's what they want to see.
Confidence in manufacturing has been hammered in this country. We need strong action, urgent action. We've sent strong signals of support for manufacturing. Labor, when in government in 2013, released the plan for Australian jobs, the industry innovation statement, a detailed plan to boost manufacturing in areas of competitive advantage, such as advanced manufacturing, food manufacturing, mining equipment, energy and resources, digital, defence, space and medtech. That was released in 2013. What was the first thing the coalition did in 2014? They got rid of it. They got rid of the plan as their first action. I'll come back to that.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his budget reply speech, re-ignited our commitment in terms of manufacturing with plans to advance a future made in Australia, rebuilding national manufacturing, with a comprehensive plan for jobs. In terms of advancing things like, for example, a national rail manufacturing plan, a defence industry development strategy and an Australian skills guarantee, all these things are designed to boost and support manufacturing in this country.
Then you look at the other side. As I said, in 2014, the very first thing they did when they got into manufacturing was to kill the plan that would have set us up to see manufacturing and jobs grow in the longer term. That's the first thing they did. They dumped the instant asset write-off, and then they brought it back. They abolished the loss carry-back, and then they brought it back. They threatened to cut $2 billion out of R&D support in this country, and then they relented. At that dispatch box, their then Treasurer, Joe Hockey, dared auto manufacturers to leave the country. What did they do?
They left—and all those jobs went with them.
They've failed on energy policy, so important to manufacturing. Twenty plans—gone; nowhere. They've depleted skills, with 150,000 apprenticeships cut. And we have a manufacturing deficit in this country: Australians use $365 billion of manufactured goods each year but we produce $380 billion. That shows you what's happened: attack after attack after attack.
We've looked at what's gone on. What's the result of all this? The Australia Institute's Centre for Future Work says Australia ranks last in a list of OECD countries in terms of manufacturing self-sufficiency. Less than one million people work in the manufacturing sector, accounting for 6.4 per cent of jobs, which has declined from 16.5 per cent in the late 1980s—a huge contraction in manufacturing jobs. Ninety thousand jobs have gone during this term of government. The Harvard University's Economic Complexity Index assesses the complexity of economies based on the diversity and complexity of their exports. Australia ranked 50 on that index in 1995 but had dropped to 93 in 2017. That is the legacy of this government.
Now—and I note that the minister is in the House—they have brought forward a 'modern manufacturing' fund, which, funnily enough—
guess what!—focuses on all the things we focused on in 2014! We are very grateful.
A government member interjecting—
But you abolished it. You abolished it, and we lost seven years—seven important years where we could have had our manufacturing capacity built, after we saw everything that I referred to a few moments ago about the impact on jobs and the impact on the economy, and all because, in 2014, they were cheering that they were tearing everything up, just to differentiate themselves from our side. But someone paid the cost, and it was average Australian workers who did, and they didn't deserve that.
Also, as to that fund, the minister herself indicated, soon after it was announced, that less than three per cent of the funding will be available for manufacturers this financial year. Now, the minister may have an update, but there's no point announcing a big plan and not being able to deliver; there's no point raising expectations about what this thing will do and then release only three per cent of funding this year—this year! We're at a time where we need urgency and energy and drive on all this. We need them to deliver.
But, when it comes to manufacturing, the thing they are good at is: manufacturing a slogan. There's always a label. There's always a photo opportunity. There's always something out there to just say, 'We're doing something,' but, when it comes to delivering something—nothing; nothing at all. So they are good at slogans.
What's the other thing they're good at? Rorts! Ooh, they're so good at rorts! Look at this, for example. There was a Sydney Morning Herald account of the first round of funding under the SME Export Hubs grants. The bulk of the grants, eight of the nine projects—where were they? Have a guess where those projects were.
They just happened to be in coalition seats. And one was shared between the coalition and also Labor.
Honourable members interjecting—
Let me make this point. There is no—
Opposition members interjecting—
No political party that actually believes in manufacturing would think that their first order of business was to hammer manufacturing—to cut support to manufacturing. But that is exactly what they did. When they goaded manufacturers from our shores and presided over the depletion of skills, they destroyed the viability of small manufacturers. That's exactly what they did. That betrays their utter lack of belief in Australian know-how and in manufacturing jobs.
But this side gets manufacturing. This side, and the people who sit on this side, get it. They've got families in manufacturing and friends who've worked in manufacturing, or they are MPs proud to show off what's happening in their electorates—like Humes pipes, in the seat of Makin, a concrete pipe manufacturer; or, in the seat of Oxley, PFi manufacturing, with a space industry focus; or Keech 3D Advanced Manufacturing in the seat of Bendigo; or State Asphalt in New South Wales in the seat of Werriwa. All these players are doing great things, but what they need is support and faith. They need faith in manufacturing. When it comes to Australian manufacturing, we want to send this signal to industry and its workers: Australian Labor is on the side of Australian manufacturing and the workers who have a livelihood from it.
I am absolutely thrilled that Labor has discovered manufacturing! They have been slow to grasp the concept, but I'm thrilled that they're here. I understand that it's going to take them a little bit of time to get up to speed. So I'm very happy to spend my time in this MPI talking to them about all of the work this government has done, is doing and will do.
I'm very proud of the commitments that have been made to support manufacturing. Many of the things that have just been said about manufacturing and this government's view of manufacturing are patently untrue. We have demonstrated time and time again that we support manufacturers small, medium and large. It's true that we want to support small manufacturers to become medium-sized manufacturers and our medium-sized manufacturers to be our large. In fact, that is what our plan is all about.
I want to correct the record a bit on some of the comments the previous speaker made. When Labor talks about the automotive sector, they are very selective with what they choose to talk about. They never mention that both Mitsubishi and Ford announced that they would stop manufacturing cars under a Labor government and Holden announced that they would cease manufacturing just months after the 2013 election.
As far as I'm concerned, we need to be focusing on manufacturing now and for the future. We know that manufacturing, along with many other industries, was hit hard during the pandemic. There's many ways that you can talk about the number of jobs. But it's important to note that, if you look at the jobs figures in manufacturing from February of last year, which was just before the pandemic really hit us here, we had about 5½ thousand more manufacturing jobs in this country than when Labor left office. Job numbers will continue to fluctuate over time, and it's fair to say that about 70,000 jobs were lost in the first couple of months of the COVID pandemic.
But long before COVID was even talked about, this government was looking at how we could rebuild manufacturing in this country. We started with setting up industry task forces. What I can say is that the manufacturing plan, the Make it Happen plan, that we have put in place has been designed by industry, for industry. So when those opposite stand up and criticise the work that's being done, basically what they're saying to industry is that industry doesn't understand its own businesses, doesn't understand the sector in which it works and doesn't understand manufacturing. Nothing could be further from the reality. We have some fantastic manufacturing businesses here in this country and we are supporting them.
The manufacturing strategy was about 18 months to two years in the making. During COVID we reassessed that plan to look at our critical needs to make sure that, in times of crisis, we could manufacture as much as we possibly could here. This needs to be seen in the context of the fact that Australia is a trading nation, we probably always will be, and there will be some things that we are unlikely to ever manufacture in Australia. What we need to do, though, strategically, is look at what we need to do in times of a crisis. Many people pooh-pooh what was done with the surgical masks here but it's an outstanding story. Yes, there was only one manufacturer of surgical masks in this country, and it was producing about two million masks. By the end of last year, we had produced over 400 million masks. That demonstrates what capacity we can build here in manufacturing.
When we announced the strategy, we made it very clear that there would be a number of components to it. One was to look at our supply chain resilience. That work is underway. The second thing that is part of that strategy is the second round of the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund. That grant funding has opened, and it closed on 21 January. Assessment is now being undertaken, so we will have an announcement of where that funding will go. It will be to support businesses in our six named national manufacturing priority areas. So that's immediate support that we are providing to Australian manufacturers in our key priority areas.
As part of our strategy, we said we would get the economic conditions right, and we are doing that. About $7 billion has been injected into the skills sector to make sure that we can develop the skills that are needed for the future. Everyone in this chamber understands the significant damage that Labor inflicted on the vocational education and training sector when they were in government, when they made 12 successive cuts to the support that is given to employers to employ apprentices. It was just appalling, what they did. Quite frankly, they brought that sector to its knees. But now they're making, or trying to make, a story out of the fact that they're going to rebuild a sector that they decimated. Well, that's Labor for you.
Mr Dick interjecting—
Yes, we have been in government—and thank goodness the opposition are not in government, because not only do they not understand manufacturing; they don't understand vocational education and training either.
So we are getting the economic conditions right. We're making sure that we do have the skilled workforces that all of our businesses need for the future. We are working on energy costs, because we know what a significant input that is for our manufacturers. We're looking at tax settings. We're looking at what we can do to support our businesses. We've made changes to the R&D tax incentive.
I think probably at this point what I might do is actually talk about the value-add and how important that is to Australian manufacturing. For quite some time, the focus in Australia on manufacturing was just the production part that was in the middle. The manufacturing smile curve demonstrates how big the manufacturing sector is here in Australia, and it demonstrates where the value-add actually is. The value-add is in things such as research and development; it's in design; it's in logistics; and, yes, there's value-add in the production part in the middle. But there's greater value-add as you start to come out on the other side of the production process on the smile curve and you're starting to look at what can happen with sales, marketing and after-sales services.
What we as a government are doing is focusing on three things. We are focusing on competitiveness; clearly, resilience; and building scale. We're making sure that we are looking at the value-added component of it. So there are three streams that we are focusing on. The big stream is the collaboration stream. That's where we are going to be bringing businesses together, along with researchers, building the supply chains both here within Australia and externally. Work is well underway to develop the road maps that will input into that and the guidelines that will input into that.
There are also two other streams that are very important to us. One is making sure that there is support for those businesses that are looking to commercialise their good ideas. We know that commercialisation is where there are real opportunities for us in this country, and hence we've made that a focus of our manufacturing strategy. We also know—and this is the third stream—how important it is for our businesses, for our manufacturers, to be able to access international supply chains so that we can get their products injected into our supply chains overseas. Perhaps the best example of that is the commitment that we have made to Australian businesses in the space sector for $150 million in funding for our businesses to be able to support the NASA Moon to Mars program, the Artemis program. NASA has stated very, very clearly that we will be supporting our businesses, we will get them into the supply chain and NASA is going to get us back to the moon by 2024—
Honourable members interjecting—
In the post-World War II years of the 1960s and 1970s, manufacturing accounted for nearly 30 per cent of Australian GDP and 30 per cent of Australian jobs. Today, the figure is less than seven per cent. The decline is not just because of the rise of China or other developing nations where cheap labour is plentiful. It is as much because successive conservative governments have failed to invest in the manufacturing sector and failed to invest in research and development. Indeed, since 2013, under the Abbott, Turnbull and now Morrison governments, total spending on science, research and innovation has declined by more than a billion dollars.
The Morrison government has also failed to ensure there is a stable energy policy and failed to invest in skills training, with nearly 150,000 fewer apprentices today. They've cut billions of dollars from TAFE, so much so that industry leaders have flagged that the Australian naval fleet build is at risk because of shortages of skilled workers. If there were any good to come out of the COVID crisis, it's that it exposed Australia's vulnerabilities in not having a strong manufacturing sector. It was a badly needed wake-up call that 90 per cent of our medicines are imported, that there was a shortage of personal protective equipment, that retail store shelves were, and still are, empty of household goods because they were all imported.
In South Australia, once a booming manufacturing state driven by the vision and drive of a conservative premier, Tom Playford, I have seen the demise of manufacturing for myself. Only last week, I was driving along Philip Highway in Elizabeth in the electorate of Spence, through what was once a thriving manufacturing hub centred around GMH. I saw empty abandoned buildings where previously thousands of people worked every day. All because this government turned its back on GMH. Can I say to the minister that no Labor government ever turned their back on Mitsubishi or Ford. The decision to turn their back on GMH was the most short-sighted decision of any government that I can think of. The economic and security returns of backing GMH far outweighed the relatively little government assistance that they were asking for at the time. In South Australia, business confidence was rocked by their closure and, quite frankly, it has never fully recovered. We then had the government boast about the replacement submarine investment where it seems that most of the work is going to go offshore. Again, we have no confidence in this government's ability to deliver those jobs to South Australia or indeed any other workplace in Australia.
We in Labor value the role of manufacturing. That is why Anthony Albanese announced Labor's plan for a future made in Australia by investing in manufacturing and skills training and encouraging research, development and innovation. In advanced countries like Japan and Germany, manufacturing still accounts for about 20 per cent of their economy. It hasn't fallen that much at all. Those are countries that also have a high standard of living but they have shown that if the government gets behind the manufacturing centre they can remain competitive worldwide. In my own electorate I have a manufacturer, Lanfranco Furniture, who still makes furniture, employs 70 to 80 people and competes every day with imported furniture. They are able do so because of innovation and productivity gains they have been able to make there. Australia could and should do the same.
Manufacturing is critical not just because it creates so many different jobs but because it's critical to our security at times when we are left vulnerable, as we were with COVID-19. We were dependent on every other nation around the world for the essential needs of the people of this country due to the short-sightedness of this government and of conservative governments around Australia. In time, they will wake up to their foolishness and do exactly what some other advanced manufacturing countries, like Japan and Germany, are doing. (Time expired)
Australian manufacturing, and the jobs it creates, is just so important, and we support it here in the Morrison government. I give thanks to all Australians in this recovery. Together, we are resilient and confident to play to our strengths. The Morrison government's $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy is led by the industry, for the industry. We understand manufacturing is key to almost every supply chain and adds value across all sectors. By getting the conditions right for manufacturers and making science and technology work for the industry, we can trade on Australia's areas of advantage.
As the Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services, with a background in small and family business, I understand that collaborating with industry is vital. It offers a road map to the recovery and beyond. Businesses like Big Dog Pet Foods have a strong domestic growth. They pivoted quickly to meet changing buyer habits during COVID-19 and innovated on their supply chain, and they've have seen a 60 per cent growth during this crisis. Big Dog is just out at Brendale, not far from my area, in the member for Dixon's electorate. The Morrison government backs Australian manufacturing by supporting businesses to create jobs, be more resilient and boost their competitiveness around the world. Even Labor has said that the types of jobs created by manufacturers and engineering companies are 'a remarkable Australian success story'. That's what the shadow Treasurer said last week when he was out at Tritium, in the member for Griffith's electorate, talking about the 250 jobs that that company creates charging EVs. All this has happened under a coalition government. I agree with the shadow Treasurer—it is a remarkable success story. I congratulate Tritium for their innovative car chargers for electric vehicles and thank Jane Hunter and her team, who work there in Brisbane.
The government's HomeBuilder package is one example where record levels of approval help build a resilient Australia. Australians are taking that step into the housing market, and they're doing so to support manufacturers. I think of Kingswood Cabinets in my own electorate, who said that HomeBuilder has helped them enormously. They increased their staff during COVID by six permanent jobs and employed two local apprentices. They now have 52 permanent staff. Kingswood Cabinets said, 'We were confident enough to put on two young guys for a four-year apprenticeship.' If the current conditions continue along the same track, they will expand that operation to put on another 25 staff and double the size of the facility. Australian tradies building Australian homes with Australian-manufactured products, like products from Kingswood Cabinets, are making a real difference. Products like Wattyl paints are Australian made. ActronAir ducted air conditioning is Australian made; Ram Tapware for kitchens and bathrooms, which I've just put into my place, and Tindo Solar panels are Australian made. The member for Makin should have mentioned that one down in South Australia. Everyone likes a barbie. I've just bought a Heatlie barbecue, also Australian made and manufactured, and I recommend the shadow minister get one.
Australia's economy is fighting back, with 784,000 jobs created in the last seven months, and this is making a real impact not just in our electorate of Petrie but in all of the members' electorates, right around Australia. The women in my office tell me that NAK Hair, which sells Australian-owned and made hair products, said JobKeeper was a game changer. Their productivity has increased in excess of 20 per cent, and they could have achieved great growth if they had not faced supply challenges related to COVID-19. That's why the Morrison government is delivering the $107 million Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, positioning Australia to respond to future disruptions in supply chains. That's what Australian voters want. I know they want that in my electorate of Petrie. As Australian manufacturers know, the Morrison government has a solid track record of over 1½ million new jobs created since 2013, more than half of which were full-time. We have legislation in this place right now to make more jobs permanent, at the same time as those opposite are whingeing about casualisation in the workforce.
I also think of great manufacturers that do insulation. Bradford Gold insulation has just been installed recently at the place of someone I know. It's Australian made. Thor Building Products in Northgate—what a great company that is, making Australian manufacturing! This will continue through investments like the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund, which offers grants of up to $1 million for businesses to invest, because of the Morrison government—real manufacturing, real jobs and real Australian success. (Time expired)
After seven years of this Liberal government and listening to the minister, we can guarantee one thing: manufacturing in this country is now a wasteland thanks to this government. Let's look at the facts. Since this government came to power—and the minister would like us to think, 'Thank heavens she was in power!'—she has delivered the vanishing of 90,000 jobs. One hundred and forty thousand apprenticeships and traineeships have vanished under this government. In my electorate, from 2013 to 2018, apprenticeships dropped by 43 per cent.
Eight hundred and sixty thousand Australians rely on the manufacturing sector for their livelihood, and what's the government's plan to keep them afloat? Well, there isn't one. The government's plan is to take away work and make it easier to move manufacturing jobs offshore so that we have to import all of our goods. We've had a debate today about car manufacturing. I'm with the shadow industry and innovation minister. Why can't we build electric cars here in Australia? Why can't we merge blue- and white-collar jobs? Why can't we support the 86,000 small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses that are still alive in this country? It's all very well for the member for Petrie to talk about the barbecues that he's buying and about his home improvements and all that's happening, but he won't stand in this chamber and talk about the jobs that he has slashed and the lack of a plan to deliver real reform in this country.
While we're talking about cars and the manufacturing industry, let's look at what the sector says about this minister, the so-called minister who wants a pat on the back for driving industry overseas. The headline of the article I refer to is 'Karen Andrews "sidelined"', and it refers to a meeting held in Canberra with the Australian Automotive Dealer Association, where it was revealed that, because of the minister's incompetence, Minister Cash has been made responsible for dealing with the issue of automotive dealerships. Fancy putting Senator Cash in charge of everything! If that's not a clear message that you're not on top of your game, I don't know what is.
The article says:
The move follows outrage from dealers—
car dealers in all of our electorates across Australia—
when in the lead-up to Christmas, Minister Andrews released an "Automotive Principles" policy for an industry code that was voluntary and was to be trialled for two years before the government revisited the issue.
She was putting it into the 'too hard' basket. The article continues:
The AADA issued a note saying that Minister Andrews' actions were a "kick in the guts" for car dealers and their 60,000 employees and it was a major setback for dealers who were seeking to be protected from OEMs—
the large multinational companies—
which abused their uneven power over dealers.
"Just when dealers thought this year could not possibly get worse, Minister Karen Andrews has sided with multinational car manufacturers, some of which have treated Australian dealers and their customers with absolute disdain in 2020" AADA CEO James Voortman said in the note.
"It is clear that car dealers in Australia desperately need a strong set of mandatory protections which protect dealers against the abuses from car manufacturers. What we have today is a do-nothing policy cynically released on a Friday afternoon," he said.
That sets it up in one sector in this country. We all have car dealerships in our electorates. They are the lifeblood of rural and regional communities. They provide support to the local footy clubs and the local cricket clubs. They sponsor our teams, and this government and this minister have treated them with utter contempt. So I don't want any lectures from the other side today, talking about small business and talking about manufacturing. Here you have dealers in this country crying out for help. It is bad enough that this government goaded and demanded that manufacturing leave our shores. Now you are seeing the icing on the cake.
In my home state of Queensland the state Labor government is delivering a manufacturing plan, a multibillion-dollar train-building plan. Who can forget Campbell Newman's trains? They were built in India, wouldn't fit on the tracks and didn't have disability access. Time and time again, it has been shown that this government cannot be trusted when it comes to manufacturing and manufacturing jobs in this country.
In my own community I have had the privilege of meeting a whole range of industries in manufacturing. They all say the same thing: they want help and they want support. They don't want announcements and photo opportunities by this government and this Prime Minister. It's time this government took manufacturing seriously in Australia.
It's absolutely fantastic that the member for Chifley has given me, as his neighbour, the opportunity to outdo him on manufacturing. The evidence is in the numbers. On the page I have here, the member for Chifley has been working so hard for manufacturers in his community that he is at the bottom of the list of the number of manufacturers that he's been fighting for in his community for all the time he has been the member for Chifley. I'm very proud to say that Lindsay, next door, has over three times more manufacturers. We are fighting hard for local manufacturers in Western Sydney. So again I thank the member for Chifley for giving me the opportunity to make him feel a bit silly.
We do have wonderful manufacturers in Western Sydney. Baker & Provan are in St Marys, just on the border of Chifley, not too far away. We are working hard for them. They have some great Defence contracts. We have Custom Denning also in St Marys, a fantastic local manufacturer who are working on Australia's first electric bus. That's a great Lindsay manufacturer. SpanSet in Emu Plains manufacture safety harnesses for the construction industry. Grant Engineered in Penrith are another great manufacturer who manufacture truck body parts, and they are doing a wonderful job. Also we have J Sinclair Engineering and one of my favourite manufacturers in the community because they work really hard. They are headed up by a woman who manufactures windows.
We have so many local manufacturers across Western Sydney, and the message I am hearing from them is that they are getting backed by the Morrison government and they feel really positive about the policies that we have in place. During the coronavirus pandemic I was one of the first off the blocks to say we need to really back our local manufacturers. I truly believe Western Sydney can be at the heart of a new era in manufacturing. We have so much investment coming in, particularly with the establishment of Western Sydney airport and the development of advanced manufacturing. That's what I'm working really hard for.
But it's not just me saying that our community in Western Sydney can be the heart of a new era in manufacturing. We have a survey that I established that went out across Western Sydney. This survey showed that our local people in Western Sydney are really behind Australian manufacturing and backing Aussie made. So our community feel it too. Absolutely when I speak out and about in the community they tell me that they truly do back Australian made. That means that what we in the Morrison government are doing is working.
One of the top priority areas for respondents in my survey was resources technology and critical minerals processing. That's a really important manufacturing component for people in Western Sydney, because our community knows how important our resources and critical minerals sector is and will continue to be, particularly after the coronavirus pandemic. This is a sector that has a strong track record in creating Australian jobs. For me, creating local jobs is absolutely important as we get through the coronavirus pandemic, with a huge focus on training our kids in the jobs of the future. So when we are talking about delivering, Member for Chifley, I'm delivering for my community of Lindsay by establishing a jobs of the future forum, bringing together our educators, our industry and our school teachers to work out how our kids can get those opportunities and the jobs that are coming with our focus on modern manufacturing. I've also established—the member for Chifley might be interested, because he might like to do this too in his own community—an Advancing Manufacturing Taskforce, again bringing the university, TAFE, industry and teachers together to work out how we can get the best opportunities when it comes to manufacturing.
So we're doing it in Lindsay. We're fighting for our local manufacturers but, most importantly, we're backing our local manufacturers to make sure that we get all the opportunities that are coming with the Morrison government's focus on modern manufacturing and our six priority areas. When I go out and about and speak to our local manufacturers, they're telling me that never before have they felt as backed as they do now.
In my opening remarks, I just want to respond to a couple of things that members on the government side have said, particularly in relation to the minister. How defensive was the minister? In my opinion, she was a little bit rude towards our shadow minister: 'Come and meet for a briefing. I'll tell you what's going on. I will lecture the Labor Party about what we're doing.' The whole point of this MPI is the lack of action of the government. We don't need another lecture from the government about how important manufacturing is. We know how important manufacturing is, and we're frustrated that it is taking this government so long to actually deliver anything.
What the minister announced last year was a reannouncement of more announcements. It was: 'We're announcing a plan to get a plan. We're going to consult with industry again. We're going to consult with manufacturing again.' They've struggled to deliver the money or the support that manufacturers want. They raised expectations, including in many regional electorates, by talking about their billions of dollars, but, when local manufacturers in my electorate tried to find out what was actually available to them, they found out very little. They found out nothing. They heard, 'Oh, we're consulting with industry and we'll get back to you.'
I did ask for a meeting with the minister. I've asked on several occasions. To this date, I've still not met with the minister. Maybe she has a bit of a ranking of who's important and who's not important to meet with. But I'm sure that, if I did get that opportunity, I'd share with her the experiences and what the manufacturers in my part of the world want.
The government also seem convinced that the only important form of manufacturing—this is what they always talk about—is defence manufacturing. Now, defence manufacturing is important. We do manufacture quite a few products in the defence industry in my electorate. We manufacture the Hawkei and the Bushmaster, and we manufacture Defence uniforms. However, it's only a small percentage of our overall manufacturing industry in Australia, and manufacturers like our food manufacturers, our advanced metal manufacturers and our 3D manufacturers are continually frustrated that all this government seems to have is the defence manufacturing plan. There's no plan for food manufacturing; they just talk about getting a plan. There's no support for food manufacturers, who have helped deliver us through this economic crisis and the pandemic that we're going through.
What we should be proud of is the way in which our manufacturing in this country has survived against all odds. Our manufacturing in this country is patchwork, and the businesses and industries that we still have have survived against everything. They've survived against tough overseas economic climates and this government's failed free trade agreements, which have seen China impose new tariffs on our manufactured goods. They've survived skyrocketing energy prices; this government has done very little to deliver relief on energy prices. They've survived skills shortages and worker shortages. They've survived supply chain issues.
This is all an opportunity for us if we could just work with our manufacturing to deliver. There are thousands upon thousands of Australians employed in manufacturing, and the missed opportunity is that it could be so much more. This government is not interested in addressing the gaps that we have in our supply chain and ensuring that those products are manufactured here. One of the government speakers bragged about how great HomeBuilder was for manufacturing. Well, we have a steel shortage in this country. The problem with HomeBuilder is that a whole bunch of projects won't get started, because we have a pipeline supply issue, because we don't have enough steel being manufactured in this country to supply those builds. We don't make bricks in many places in this country anymore, yet there's no support to underpin that program. It's a patchwork problem that we have.
If this government were serious, they'd back Labor's plan about a future made in Australia and the policy that Labor released. We have a proud history of supporting manufacturing in this country, whether it be through our rail manufacturing, our food manufacturing or our advanced 3D manufacturing. This side of the House understands that it needs to be a tripartisan, three-way conversation. You need to involve the workers and their unions; you need to involve the manufacturers, the business owners and the heads of industry; and government needs to be there. We've seen it happen at a state level in Queensland, WA and Victoria. If only we could get the federal government to partner with industry and workers to deliver the same at a federal level!
Today I have the great delight of speaking on the Morrison government's ongoing commitment to the manufacturing industry in Australia. Our country has always been revered for our economic power. While our population is only 25 million strong, we still boast an impressive economy spanning many sectors. The Morrison government is committed to ensuring that our manufacturing sector holds its own as an industry in the modern Australian economy. The Morrison government's economic strategy includes a $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy that will drive Australian manufacturing far into the future.
When we talk about investing in manufacturing, we're talking about investing in jobs. We're talking about investing in Australia. In my electorate of Chisholm, manufacturing employs over 4,000 people across 439 businesses. The $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy will help those people and businesses. It will also create opportunity for many of my constituents in Chisholm if they want to hone their skills in this sector.
As a key feature of this government's JobMaker plan, the Modern Manufacturing Strategy will ensure that Australia's economy and people remain resilient in the face of global uncertainty. Unlike the Labor Party, when the Liberals spend taxpayers' money, we get it right. The Liberal Party understands that, to ensure success, you need to get the best bang for your buck. This is in our party's DNA, and it has been built into our Modern Manufacturing Strategy.
This strategy recognises that we must play to our strengths. It understands that we have to target sectors that allow us to achieve scale and generate future growth. This is why we have focused our efforts on the six new National Manufacturing Priorities. In case members on the other side still don't know, let me remind you what these priorities are: resources technology and critical mineral processing; food and beverages; medical products, recycling and clean energy; defence; and space. As I said earlier, Liberals understand how to spend taxpayers' money, which is why these priorities represent sectors where we have a comparative advantage, the capacity to harness emerging opportunities or a strategic interest. It's important to remember that modern manufacturing is more than just production on the factory floor. R&D, innovation, design and services are all part of what we produce. To grow and succeed we must compete on value, quality and products that are different or customised. We recognise that, while we are not able to compete with mass-producing nations on low-value production, we can improve our production in the future by adopting and developing new technologies. The Morrison government will always be a government that values and understands the need for science and technology and how it benefits our manufacturing sector.
Those sitting opposite me may criticise this government's plan, but it's the Morrison government that has been creating jobs, both for our COVID-19 recovery and for generations to come. It's this government that is driving our economic recovery and our future, it's this government that is making Australia more secure and it's this government that is giving the Australian manufacturing sector the tools and support to survive and thrive for decades to come.
COVID-19 has exposed many underlying issues in Australia. In one way or another, the pandemic has hit everyone. Each of us has had to face small inconveniences, at a minimum, or, at worst, tragedies. Though some of the problems faced by Australians during this pandemic were unavoidable, some would have been prevented if this government had been on their side and had done anything in the last seven years. Whether it's the disproportionate effect COVID-19 has had on multicultural and Indigenous Australians, the small and family businesses that have seen their businesses fold or the fact that Australia does not create medicines onshore, we have been exposed. Many sectors in Australia were either barely keeping their head above water or were being pulled under by the inaction of this government. Manufacturing in Australia is one such industry.
Seven years of damage by this government has left the manufacturing industry reeling. Over 90,000 jobs have been lost in Australia since the coalition has been in government, and there are 140,000 fewer people doing apprenticeships and traineeships than when the coalition took power. No doubt these numbers will grow, especially in my state, where they seem determined to sell all the TAFE campuses. The coalition effectively dared manufacturers out of the country, and they went, leaving Australians in a void. Labor went to the last election with an electric vehicle policy that would have reinvigorated the industry and pushed Australia into becoming the manufacturing powerhouse we can and should be, but the government slammed the idea. Now, three years later, it talks about hybrid cars and transitioning to EVs as if it were a world first. Wouldn't it have been great if Australia had manufactured the vehicles that the entire planet needs? The demand is here now and it continues to grow, as does the demand for good, secure jobs for Australian families, but again and again the government has left workers behind, especially those in the manufacturing industry. Labor's goal was to make Australia self-sufficient. However, those on the other side pursue what seems to be the opposite, outsourcing and offshoring deals that provide nothing for Australian workers or manufacturing. Workers, and the companies that employ them, are ready to wait for incentives from this government to kickstart our manufacturing revival, yet all this government seems to be interested in is rorts and looking after its mates.
The coalition is guilty of neglecting Australian manufacturing not only at a federal level but also at a state level. The Berejiklian government, in my home state of New South Wales, purchased its new inner-city train fleet from South Korea, its metros from India and its light-rail carriages from France and Spain. It bought buses from Germany and Malaysia, and the transport minister managed to purchase from Indonesia ferries that don't fit under the bridges on the river they're made to service. If you're on the top deck, you have to duck when you go under a bridge. The approach of the coalition at state and federal levels is to trash local manufacturing and to trash TAFE. TAFE courses have been cut, and now we have a skills shortage. Why does the coalition think Australians are not innovative or cannot manufacture world-leading goods here at home? Take it from the Premier of New South Wales, apparently the leader of our state. She herself has stated publicly that Australia, including New South Wales, is not good enough to build trains, but the Premier is wrong. There are manufacturing innovators in Australia. There are plenty in my part of the world in south-west Sydney. In my electorate of Werriwa manufacturing is in the top five industries of employment. Eleven per cent of the entire workforce is spread through the industrial precincts of Hoxton Park, Prestons and Ingleburn, and in the near future the Western Sydney airport.
State Asphalts NSW, whose head office is in Prestons, was recently successful in round 10 of the Cooperative Research Centres Projects, receiving almost $3 million in grant funds leading a process into recycling plastic and paperboard waste into value-added asphalt additives. Another business in the south-west, Tacca, pivoted from their packaging origins to make material for protective face masks and shields needed for the brave workers on the front line of the pandemic.
Where there are incentives, there's Australian ingenuity and jobs. Labor is on the side of manufacturing and the Australia that jobs create. Australians need a government that invests in them and one that believes in Australian ingenuity and manufacturing capacity. Australia needs a government on its side.
On 5 and 6 March in the town of Wagin there's a field day called the Wagin Woolorama. It's a livestock show, and the best livestock in Western Australia will be on display. As a regional member, I extend the invitation to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the member for Paterson as another regional member. Please come to the Woolorama and you'll see the best that Western Australia has to offer.
The important thing about the Wagin Woolorama is that it's also a trade show. You'd also get to see some of the outstanding manufactured products that are produced in my electorate of O'Connor for consumption within my electorate of O'Connor but also, in some instances, exported around the word.
I want to start at the small end: Bird's Silos in Popanyinning. Popanyinning is a small town 30 or 40 kilometres north of Narrogin, which is a regional centre. Popo's got a population of about 20. The engineering business Bird's of Popanyinning would employ at least 20, so there are people who travel from the surrounding districts. They produce grain-handling equipment and livestock feeding equipment. They've been doing that for many, many years and they do it very, very well. The thing I love about those sorts of businesses is the very flat management structure. The owners generally are working in the workshop, working on the floor, and they produce a fantastic product. That's a great example of one of those small-end manufacturing businesses in my seat of O'Connor.
Moving up to the mid-sized range business is Himac, based in Albany, my home town. It employs 60 or 70 people, and the interesting thing about this business is that it produces attachments for bobcats, diggers, sweepers—those sorts of pieces of equipment. They do it so well that they are now exporting that product to the eastern states. They've just set up a branch in Sydney, but they're taking advantage of the very cheap backload rates to send their product straight into the heart of the eastern states into Sydney and are selling products widely in that area.
Duraquip and Commander Ag-Quip are businesses that produce well-manufactured products that are specifically suited for agriculture and they're competing against cheap imported products from China. The only way they can do that is to make a good-quality product and back it up with good service, and they do that extremely well.
So, that's the Wagin Woolorama. As I say, on 5 and 6 March, I extend an invitation to all members to visit Wagin and see the best of what Western Australia has to offer.
Moving further north to Kalgoorlie, which is the heart and soul of the Western Australian mining industry, we have some fantastic innovative manufacturers. Newland Precision Engineering produce underground mining equipment, whether it be drills or other underground equipment, and they're exporting it to the rest of the world. It's a fantastic product—Australian ingenuity, quality manufacturing processes. It's competing on the world stage and competing effectively.
Hahn Electrical Contracting, another business set up in Kalgoorlie by Allan and Daphne Hahn, produces underground electrical equipment and installs it. This business has grown to a couple of hundred people who work there. The thing I love about Hahns is their attitude towards apprentices. Craig, the manager, is always keen to take on apprentices. They take on high-school students doing their work placement to try and encourage them into the industry, and that is fantastic. That is one of the major challenges our manufacturing businesses have across O'Connor, and I hear it everywhere I go—accessing skilled labour. Getting people to live and work in our regional towns is getting harder and harder, Deputy Speaker, as you would know, so attracting skilled tradespeople to these businesses is getting more and more challenging. In Kalgoorlie, the government has instituted a designated area migration agreement, where boilermakers and other high skilled businesses are on the list. But, with COVID, unfortunately, that hasn't been as effective as we would have liked, because we can't get anyone in.
Of course, the government is also looking to stimulate the apprenticeship sector, with 350,000 new apprenticeships. I sincerely hope that many of them end up in my electorate of O'Connor to support those fantastic small businesses and the people who work in them and drive the Australian economy.