Peter Khalil: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. Finally the government is recognising the importance of Australian manufacturing. We can and should be a country that makes things, absolutely. The importance of a strong manufacturing sector is actually the Labor Party’s DNA. We know it creates jobs and builds our economy. Yet, under this coalition government’s watch we have seen the sector contracting by their own hand. Effectively, they booted car manufacturing out of this country.
Frankly, as much as this motion is well intentioned, it is this government’s track record which is abysmal when it comes to Australian Made and Australian manufacturing. No amount of smoke and mirrors or marketing sleight of hand—or even muting me surreptitiously—will actually fool the punters into thinking that this government supports manufacturing. The recent budget manufacturing announcement made by the government was all photo op and no follow-up.
The coalition government has spent seven years attacking and undermining Australian manufacturing, and now they really want us to believe that they support it. It shouldn’t take a pandemic and a recession for the Morrison government to start talking about the importance of manufacturing in Australia. Manufacturing has been declining for years, aided and abetted by the coalition’s policies over the past seven years. The decline has been very much felt in my electorate of Wills, in the north-west of Melbourne, particularly with the loss of the Ford factory in Broadmeadows back in 2016—just outside of my electorate.
Meanwhile, you’ve had COVID-19, with a devastating impact own local employment, and now Australia is reliant on offshore manufacturing, which has really put supply chains at risk. We need to take this opportunity to create new jobs in my electorate of Wills and across Australia. We must get Wills back to work and we must get the rest of Australia back to work, and a strong manufacturing sector can do just that. If we get it right a strong manufacturing sector can deliver world-class products, incorporate the best technologies and provide good, secure jobs that our workers need and deserve.
Australians know Labor will actually bring manufacturing back home. Labor’s national rail manufacturing plan, announced by the Labor leader in his budget reply, is a fantastic and a substantive start. Our country has the skills and the know-how. We just need a government that not only has a plan to do it but actually believes in it. We have a once-in-a-generation chance to rebuild the economy and move Australia forward. I want to see a future made in Australia.
We can absolutely do more to promote and celebrate things that are made in Australia. In building our manufacturing capabilities we must also promote and support our local, small- and medium -sized family businesses, many of which are local manufacturers. In my electorate of Wills there are 295 manufacturing businesses spanning from coffee makers and operations to vibrant breweries and contemporary furniture design. The north of Melbourne has a very strong legacy of manufacturing with over 98 businesses being in operation for 30 years or more, that’s a lot of corporate knowledge and a lot of history. Forty-one of these businesses are family owned. I have met with many of them, including Silver Lynx Furniture, who expressed to me the difficulties they are having competing with cheaper overseas imports in the furniture business.
Small businesses and medium sized businesses are the backbone of our economy. They contribute a third of our economic activity. They keep millions of Australians in jobs and are responsible for paying the wages of more than half of our entire workforce. It’s time for the government to step up with genuine support for local manufacturing, not just talk—talk is cheap. We want real, substantive policies that invest in the opportunities that are there. Genuine support for local, small- and medium -sized businesses is what is going to get this economic recovery going, not just more marketing spin.
Labor has a genuine plan—if we were to win government—to bring manufacturing jobs back home. We’ve got substance to our plans. We will actually make a difference by investing in manufacturing and opportunities for people in all sectors to get a job and by bringing those jobs back home. Labor’s plan is substantive. It’s real. It’s ready to go. I will applaud this motion.