Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 June 2020


COVID-19: Western Australia

7:25 pm

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing) Share this | Hansard source

Tonight I make a brief contribution regarding the future of manufacturing in my home state of WA. In the west, we have navigated the impact of COVID-19, since it first arrived in the state, somewhat better than others expected, which is pleasing indeed. The McGowan government has done an outstanding job steering the state and protecting the community through the pandemic and crisis. But we know that the economic impact of COVID-19 will have a long tail, including in Western Australia. We have seen destructive and obstructive behaviour from the WA Liberals—like Liza Harvey—who are in opposition, whereas we in opposition nationally have tried very hard to be constructive.

In WA, the state government is focused on the task of economic recovery, rebuilding communities and ensuring decent, secure and well-paid jobs for Western Australians. It has become more evident than ever that we must see jobs restored and grown in the state's manufacturing sector. In commentary about the impacts of COVID on Australia, some have said that some industries have done better than others—for example, mining. But manufacturing industries in Western Australia have been significantly impacted. The impacts have been very real in terms of job losses and an economic downturn. Many companies will be feeling the worst of that impact just as their eligibility for things like JobKeeper starts to dry up.

We have seen officials scrambling to procure the very medical equipment we needed to make it through the crisis, and I think that's a legacy of the shrinking manufacturing sector. We have been overly dependent on overseas supply chains and we're the poorer for it as a nation. From research undertaken by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union in WA of 600 voters, nine in 10 said WA would be better prepared for future crises if we manufactured more in Australia. More than eight in 10 surveyed thought that the equipment needed to keep essential industries like mining, energy and transport going should be manufactured in WA. I'm confident that, if we asked more Western Australians those same questions, we'd get the same answers. Australians believe in our manufacturing industries in Western Australia and in this whole nation, in their states and in their towns.

Workers and their families in regional Australia have always suffered the most during economic downturns. Our tradies in WA, like those in other places, are more likely to live in outer suburbs and or in regional areas, and they are feeling the impacts of coronavirus very intensely. I really wish the government would amend its renovation and building incentives so that they could be properly used to stimulate our trade sector. In communities like Collie, Bunbury and other areas of the south-west, they're dealing with the winding down of coal-fired power production and are now experiencing much greater economic distress due to coronavirus.

The Manufacturing Workers Union has put forward a proposal for a south-west advanced manufacturing hub, and it deserves proper consideration by state and federal governments. It could be the hub for the local mining, transport and energy industries and the critical minerals that the government likes to talk about, but, as yet, we haven't seen anything real that delivers on it. This kind of investment, which was successful in the case of the Australian Marine Complex in Henderson, can bring together capital and industry that can really drive manufacturing and economic growth in the region of the South West, and it should really be pushed forward. I'm glad to see the AMWU taking a lead role in economic recovery in my home state of WA and for the manufacturing sector nationally, and I look forward to constructive and continued engagement in securing the future of jobs in regional Western Australia.


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