Tuesday, 18 March 2014
I rise this evening to speak about perception and reality. If we believe the newspaper headlines, the perception is that we are in a state of crisis. In my home state of Victoria, newspapers have headlines about the closure of Alcoa and the pullout of Holden, Toyota and Ford. You would think the proud city of Geelong was on its knees if you read the newspapers. Meanwhile, the government encourages a race to the bottom with its policies of slash and burn, and, while it does this, it encourages—screeches at—manufacturing and small business to innovate.
Well, I have a message for the government: the best of Australian manufacturing, our smaller to medium-sized companies, many of them located in regional areas across Victoria, are alive and thriving and at the forefront of their sectors, and the best of them are all innovation leaders. Why do I say that? Because these companies—manufacturers, food processors, smaller engineering plants and exporters—have to be innovative to survive. So, when the government's industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, or the former government's industry minister, Kim Carr, tells business to innovate, I tell you this: the manufacturers I speak with have been madly innovating, in spite of successive governments' policies and pronouncements. The former government did do some good things for manufacturing; many companies I speak with acknowledge this. But the fact remains that the best companies in Victoria and across Australia are industry leaders in their fields because they are tough, they are smart, they treat their employees well and they are constantly innovating.
In the last eight weeks, I have visited more than 40 small- to medium-sized manufacturers in Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat. Manufacturing is one of my passions, and I am a regular visitor to factories and plants across my home state and elsewhere. Additionally, we are now planning our next Australian Manufacturing and Farming Program Industry Day in Geelong, for 29 April. The AMFP was started more than 2½ years ago. It is a program supported by, and undertaken with the cooperation of, Senator Xenophon and Bob Katter. The aim of the program—and I have to say it has been very successful to date and it is continually evolving—is to get people to focus on what unites them and not what divides them. It is not about me; it is not about you; it is 'we'. The program reaches out to primary schools, to the students in them, and to secondary schools through grants for Australian-made equipment.
We have already had almost 30 companies from Geelong and further afield commit to participation in the next AMFP Industry Day in Geelong on 29 April—and every day we are getting notice of more companies coming on board. It is going to be a great day, and I invite all senators and members to come along and see firsthand what successful manufacturing, farming and food processing is all about. This will be the fifth AMFP Industry Day. Previously we have had successful days in Ballarat, Canberra, Adelaide and Dandenong.
In the minutes remaining, however, I would like to give you some examples of innovative Geelong based manufacturing and food processing. These people and these companies are success stories, and they are the tip of the iceberg. Boundary Bend is Australia's leading producer of premium extra-virgin olive oil and owns Australia's two top-selling home-grown olive oil brands, Cobram Estate and Red Island. On a recent tour of the company's plant we saw the biggest olive tree propagation program in Australia. The company is celebrating recent wins for its olive oil in New York and LA, where it was up against oils from Spain and Italy. Boundary Bend also has one of the world's leading olive oil laboratories and has invested in a state-of-the-art olive-harvesting manufacturer in Mildura.
Air Radiators are engine-cooling specialists, with 15 per cent of their product exported directly. Their main factory is located in Geelong, with other factories in Thailand and Adelaide. Major clients include Kenworth Trucks, who are in Bayswater in Melbourne, and Caterpillar. Hitachi are also a major client, and they are known for expecting extremely high standards of manufacturing before they will put their name on a product.
Carbon Revolution is a privately owned Australian company at the cutting edge of the carbon fibre revolution. The first composite wheels developed by the company's founders appeared in 2004, and they are competing in the global market for SAE vehicles. Carbon Revolution has a vision for a new carbon based manufacturing precinct in Geelong that could see a new-age automotive component sector emerge. Currently its plans include an initial manufacturing plant in Geelong to produce 50,000 carbon wheels a year.
Baum Cycles is another Geelong success story. From its nondescript factory in a Geelong backstreet, Baum Cycles manufactures state-of-the-art, handcrafted, high-performance road bikes. It exports around the world, and former clients include Cadel Evans.
Yet another company in Geelong that exports to the world is GD Manufacturing Engineers, which manufactures components that are exported to China for Caterpillar.
A famous Australian company is Backwell IXL, the manufacturers of a product that is a household name: IXL Tastic. This company has been innovating since 1858—156 years of manufacturing innovation—and is a true Australian and Geelong manufacturing success story with a state-of-the art foundry.
A smaller, recently started business is The Food Purveyor. It is a Geelong company that packages up the produce of 35 small-enterprise local food producers into gift hampers. The Food Purveyor recently made its first big sale into one of Australia's biggest retailers and took these smaller businesses onto the national scene.
Another Geelong success story is the AGB Group of companies, which is the collaboration of AGB Engineering, AGB Human Resources and SafetyZone. They are training people to help them meet the challenges of the future.
With the help of the Geelong Manufacturing Council and the Committee for Geelong, we are currently contacting another 400-plus companies. We commend the AMFP Industry Day on 29 April to the Senate, and we look forward to seeing people there to support our manufacturers, our farmers and our food processors.