Tuesday, 6 October 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Senator Cash. Last Thursday, the Prime Minister addressed the National Press Club on the Liberal-National government's Modern Manufacturing Strategy—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Third time lucky, Mr President! My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Senator Cash. Last Thursday, the Prime Minister addressed the National Press Club on the Liberal-National government's Modern Manufacturing Strategy for the future of manufacturing in Australia and acknowledged the particular importance of manufacturing to regional economies. As Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, I strongly welcome a regional—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Order! Do we want to try it again? You can recommence from your reference to 'As Leader of the Nationals in the Senate', Senator McKenzie, but I am going to say that I'll get Senator McKenzie to start from the top again if there continues to be interjections.
Cashie, are you ready! I strongly welcome the regional focus of the plan, particularly given the accessibility of rural and regional Australia to essential manufacturing inputs such as critical minerals and agricultural food and fibre. Can the minister inform the Senate on how the strategy contributes to our plan for jobs in our manufacturing industry, including in rural and regional Australia?
I thank Senator McKenzie for her question, and I acknowledge the commitment that she has to rural and regional Australia—in fact, we all have it in the coalition government.
The $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy, to be announced in tonight's budget, will deliver for regional businesses and communities. Around 30 per cent of Australia's manufacturing businesses are located in regional areas. In fact, Senator McKenzie, they employ close to 300,000 people. In regional towns throughout Australia, manufacturing businesses are often the largest employer. They source their inputs locally, which means they support other local businesses, including our primary producers. That is why our manufacturing strategy is so important for regional Australia. It is a key part of our JobMaker plan, and it will harness Australia's manufacturing capability to drive our economic recovery and, of course, our future resilience.
As we chart the road to recovery through COVID-19, the manufacturing strategy will create jobs that will last for the future—especially, Senator McKenzie, in regional Australia. The strategy itself recognises that we must play to our strengths. We have to target sectors that allow us to achieve scale and generate future growth. That's why we are focusing our efforts on six new national manufacturing priorities: resources, technology and critical mineral processing; food and beverage; medical products; recycling and clean energy; defence; and space. As Senator McKenzie would know, many of these sectors are firmly based in regional Australia. The manufacturing strategy will put in place incentives to grow these sectors and support more resilient regional economies.
Creating a competitive business environment is the first component of the Liberal and Nationals government's strong manufacturing plan. Can the minister please outline how the strategy will deliver to overcome competitive challenges faced by businesses in rural and regional Australia so that opportunities for competitive advantage and value-adding can be created?
We know that post COVID many people are now expressing an interest in moving to the regions and many businesses are seeing the value in establishing their operations in regional communities. Many of our regional universities already have very deep and practical research ties with their local economies and local businesses—as does our premier scientific agency, the CSIRO. These businesses are uniquely placed to provide the expertise to drive innovation, support commercialisation and facilitate business-to-business collaboration. That will drive the necessary scale. As Senator McKenzie knows, regional Australia has a strong track record of exporting unprocessed resources and food. The plan we have is about enabling the value-add, and the best place to do that is right where the products are produced. The coalition's Modern Manufacturing Strategy is all about helping scale up our manufacturing businesses so they are better able to compete. (Time expired)
Thank you, Minister, for such a comprehensive answer. Can the minister also outline how the Liberal and Nationals government's plan will build national resilience by securing sovereign capability in these manufacturing sectors, particularly in rural and regional areas, given the resilience they have demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The resilience shown by our manufacturers, in particular in regional Australia, during COVID-19 has been essential to support our COVID-19 health response. There have been some remarkable stories of which we're all aware. Med-Con was our only manufacturer of surgical masks at the commencement of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's a family business, based in Shepparton. Their machines were invented by the company founder 30 years ago. With the government's backing, they will now produce more than 59 million masks by December. They're employing 25 more people, they're providing vital supplies to our National Medical Stockpile and, importantly, they've now increased our national capacity long term. That is exactly the type of example we're aiming to build with our $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy.