House debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023


National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Bill 2022; Third Reading

10:48 am

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Industry and Science) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Friends, this is a good day for Australian manufacturing. If you want Australia to be a country that makes things, this is a good day. If you are a manufacturer in regional or outer-suburban areas of our country who is looking for that growth capital to make sure that your firm is secure and grows, this is a good day. And this is a good day for jobs. This is a good day for people working across a range of different sectors who believe in the value of their work and want a government that believes in the value of their work.

We are championing Australian manufacturing because it's not just about making things here in this country. Australian manufacturing makes good jobs and good secure work. Nearly 900,000 people in this nation owe their livelihood to manufacturing, and 85 per cent of those jobs are full time, good-paying jobs. This is something that is absolutely worth fighting for. We had people on this side of the chamber fight for that. We had people on the crossbench and the Greens fight for that. We may not have agreed with everything, but in the end we had the bulk of this chamber say, 'Australian manufacturing is worth backing.' The ones who didn't are sitting opposite.

The ones who want to pretend that they back manufacturing are sitting opposite. The ones who chased off auto manufacturers from this country are sitting opposite. Many of the ones who pulled apart manufacturing programs when they were in government are sitting opposite, and many of the ones who scrambled to put manufacturing funding back in are sitting opposite. And then, when we called on them to support us to help Australian manufacturers, who are dealing with soaring energy prices, and we said, 'Join with us to help Australian manufacturers', they weren't there. And when we asked them to back in one of the greatest investments in manufacturing capability in living memory, they weren't there.

When those opposite were in government and said they wanted to bring in funds for manufacturing grants to help support Australian manufacturing and they put $1.5 billion on the table, what did we do? We didn't do what they did. We agreed with it; we supported it. They say they're the party of the working class but, every time they need to be there, they're not. They refuse to back our ideas. We said, 'We don't agree necessarily with everything you're doing', when we were in opposition, but we backed manufacturing because manufacturing matters. That's the test.

Those opposite failed the test. They had a chance to show that they truly do get it, that this is a time when it is hard to get capital at the price needed because they set us on a trajectory around inflation when they were in office. Their spending, their blowouts of the budget, their increases in debt—one trillion of debt—the way that they failed to deal with supply chains, the way that inflation went off the rails and the way it set us on an interest rate trajectory that we're having to deal with now in government, when we try to get that fixed, they are not there. The point I make, friends, is that they are never there to support manufacturing. They only support manufacturing when there's a camera around, when they can put on the high-vis and they can pretend to.

We on this side think Australian manufacturing deserves better than that. I look at my colleagues and I look at how many of them, in the outer suburbs and the regions, visit their manufacturers and are proud of what they do. Each and every one of you can go back and say, 'We back what you do.' We back Australian know-how; we back ideas. We don't want firms to feel like they have to leave this nation to get the support they rightly deserve from our own.

Why is it that we have so many firms that say they can't get capital from local investors but they get it from overseas investors or overseas governments that back manufacturing quicker than our own? Labor are determined to change this. We are determined to back our ideas, back our businesses, back our workers, back their growth and back them being able to grow communities and make a difference. We said in opposition, friends, that we would do this. We all lived the lesson of the pandemic, when the things we needed were not there at the time we needed them most. We said, 'We'll learn the lesson.' We didn't say, 'We'll learn the lesson,' and then do nothing and forget about it later. We said we would take concrete action. We promised the Australian people we would develop this fund. We promised that we would see that money available for communities that value manufacturing, and we are delivering.

We wish we had had the support of those opposite, but it's clear they are the fakes and flakes when it comes to manufacturing. They are never there when we need their support. But, friends, we will do it. We will get this job done. We will make sure that Australian manufacturing gets the support it needs. You all, as well as the crossbench and the Greens, can go back to your communities and rightly say, 'We've got your back.' And we are proud of this fact. I'm proud of the support. I'm proud of the fact that the House has endorsed one of the greatest investments in manufacturing capability. With that, I thank the House for its time.

10:55 am

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister has come to the dispatch box paper free, and I note that because it may not be well known that he uses foreign paper in his office. Here, on Australian made paper, I'm very happy to respond and make the point that his briefs are not worth the paper they're printed on.

Now, I note the amendments moved by honourable members. The coalition has indicated from the outset of this flawed bill that we will move and consider amendments in the Senate, because this is a bad bill that has been rushed. Parliamentary scrutiny has been sidestepped. Industry consultation has been all show and no substance. Let me tell you about the industry consultation process. It's been so farcical that the government would have you believe that, in just a few business days, after a receiving close to 200 submissions, they earnestly reviewed all of this important feedback. Indeed, the minister began debate on this bill before the Senate inquiry process had even held its hearings. It's clear the only consultation that matters to this government, the only interests they're seeking to represent, are those of their union paymasters.

The minister consulted just seven organisations prior to rushing this bill through the House. The Australian Council of Trade Unions topped the list. There was Industry Super Australia, chaired by Labor powerbroker Greg Combet, and the Australian Banking Association, run by yet another Labor powerbroker, Anna Bligh. There was the Law Council of Australia. I mean no disrespect, but what would they know about the challenges our manufacturers face? There was also the Australian Investment Council and their own department's statutory board. There was not a single manufacturer—not one.

The lack of consultation for a bill that's being rushed through in this manner and that is responsible for $15 billion of taxpayers' funds is beyond negligent. In fact, when asked at Senate estimates whether any modelling was undertaken as to the inflationary impact of the National Reconstruction Fund, the response was staggering: 'No, we haven't. It wasn't necessary.' Can you believe that? I've been in this place for more than 21 years, and in all that time I struggle to recollect such an egregious affront to the Australian taxpayer.

Today we've also seen the government selling out our manufacturers for a cheap deal with the Greens which prohibits investment in coal, gas and native forestry. As Australian households and small businesses are facing soaring energy prices right here, right now, Labor seems determined to make it worse, with Anthony Albanese caving in to the Greens and selling Australian manufacturing up the creek. Every expert in this country is calling on the Prime Minister to unlock more supplies of gas, but today's awful deal with the Greens is another demonstration that this government is utterly unable to deliver policies that will produce affordable and reliable energy. The industry minister always claims to acknowledge the importance of gas as a transition fuel, but today he's actually preventing investment in this critical area of our manufacturing policy and our manufacturing sovereignty.

This is a bad bill that has become even worse. We will fight Labor's recklessness all the way to the Senate, then to the election and beyond, because the resources industry is the only industry singled out for prohibition in this fund. It's a damning indictment on the priorities of this bad Labor government. On this side of the House, we know that a gas led transition is critical. Once again, this government breaks its promise. Once again, it demonises gas. It's another broken promise. It's another in the long list of people who are being left behind by a government and a prime minister who said they would leave no-one behind. Instead, they are leaving everyone behind, including our hardworking manufacturers. This dodgy, desperate deal sees the government's signature manufacturing policy take one giant step backwards. These concerns, as well as a raft of others in this flawed bill, were captured in the Senate inquiry process. I do acknowledge the good faith in which the Independents have heard our concerns with this bad bill. The coalition does look forward to considering the report from the Senate committee, and we will be moving amendments in the Senate.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call the member for Kennedy, and I didn't want to interrupt the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or the minister, I want to remind all members about third reading speeches. If I could bring this to the attention of the deputy leader, third reading speeches is not the time to reopen debates. Practice is very clear that the scope of the debate is more restricted than at the second reading stage, being limited to the contents of the bill—that is, the matters contained in the clauses and the schedules of the bill. It is not in order to repeat those debates on matters discussed in the motion for the second reading or during the detail stage. The time to debate amendments is at the time. It is not at the third reading stage to do that. It has been held for a long time that the debate on the motion for the third reading is limited to the bill as agreed to by the House. I didn't want to interrupt, but going forward, so all members can be aware of what happens during the third reading amendment, it is not the time to bring new material or to relitigate issues.

11:01 am

Photo of Bob KatterBob Katter (Kennedy, Katter's Australian Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I started off as a very enthusiastic supporter of the bill. I have very great respect for the minister. I think he is one of the finest ministers I've served with in this place—I'd go so far as to say that. Whether he has been forced to, or whatever the case may be, the bill has been watered down and watered down and watered down. If you put enough acid in a basic solution it will then become an acidic solution and that's what has happened here. The bill has shifted from a promotion of industry to serving the interests of minority groups and to serving the interests of the anticoal brigade. In India, which will soon be the biggest country on earth and the biggest economy on earth, there are 600 million people, and this is relevant to the change that has occurred in this bill through the government process. They have no electricity, so they have to use cow dung, grass and a bit of wood that they can find somewhere for all of their energy requirements—these poor people—and you're going to tell them they can't have coal. That's simply not going to fly. I am very sad to say that the bill which I started off with great enthusiasm for will now serve the interests of minority groups. It has got nothing to do with development. It has been corrupted to a point where it will fail to achieve its objectives. With very, very sad regret, I say that I will be opposing the bill.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a third time.