National Reconstruction Fund



DEPUTY SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE IAN GOODENOUGH: And I call the honourable Member for Wills. 

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thank you so much, Deputy Speaker. I might commence my remarks by gently, maybe gently, reminding the member for Hinkler. He almost got there – he said 5 billion and then 10 billion. It’s just, you didn’t get to the equals part, because I remember from doing maths in grade six that 5 + 10 = 15. Now I can provide the member for Hinkler an abacus if it assists him, but 5 + 10 in our universe is 15, and the Albanese Labor Government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund will transform Australian industry. It will create secure local jobs and it’s going to bring manufacturing back home. This is going to leverage Australia’s natural strengths, support the development of strategically important industries, and protect Australia’s supply chains. Now the member for Hinkler was talking about all the different areas – critical areas – that this would invest in – 

GOODENOUGH: Call the member for Hinkler. 

KEITH PITT, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR HINKLER: Member, the section number is 52 part 4, the Minister must ensure the total of the amounts credited to the account under subsection 2 before July 29 equals $10 billion. 

GOODENOUGH: I call the member for Wills. 

KHALIL: The member for Hinkler may have found his abacus there in his drawer, but I will say this: 5 – and I’m just quoting him back, Deputy Speaker – 5 billion, then 10 billion. That’s 15 billion in anyone’s mathematics, but anyway. Let’s leave that, because he did touch on the critical areas of investment, and they are important. They’re actually critical to Australia’s future. Resources, agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, transport, medical science, renewables and low emission technologies; defence capability and enabling capabilities, and that is best described, Deputy Speaker, as including support for key enabling capabilities across engineering, data science, software development areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum, that are so important now as advanced technologies. These are key areas that you would think that everyone in this place, every member in this place, would get around and support, given their critical nature to Australia’s future. But I’ll come to that later, because this National Reconstruction Fund is also about jobs. Secure local, well-paid jobs for Australians; something that people in my local electorate of Wills know all too well. Many people in the north of my electorate worked at the Ford Factory in Broadmeadows; and they lost their jobs when it shut down in 2016. This fund is about rebuilding manufacturing in our country. It’s about bringing manufacturing back home, unlike those opposite, who tore through manufacturing – particularly car manufacturing – and had the audacity – a previous speaker had the audacity to try and claim it was a Labor Government’s fault when they themselves ripped out the guts of car manufacturing in this country. It was absolutely disgraceful, and I think at the time the Treasurer then went on to smoke a cigar to celebrate that effort – if I could call it that. This is about people’s livelihoods; their jobs. It’s about making things here again and setting up Australia as leaders in advanced manufacturing. It’s about our self-reliance and our sovereign capability.  

Now we saw during the difficult period that we all went through, when COVID was at its peak in the last couple of years – it exposed issues such as supply chains and resilience in those supply chains, that we were actually too reliant on some supply chains that were exposed. They impacted those supply chains, COVID impacted supply chains. And Australia was not prepared as we should have been. We as a government are doing something about that. It’s a big part of the National Reconstruction Fund. We took the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund to the election in May last year. We have a mandate, and now we are delivering on our commitment to the Australian people. The Albanese Labor Government is focused on renewing, revitalizing, and rebuilding Australia’s manufacturing industry; for Australians, for small business owners, for the regions, and for jobs. We’re setting Australians up for the future, investing in jobs, making things here again. Now those opposite have done nothing in government to invest in Aussie manufacturing. Over 9 long years, they baited the Australian car industry, as I referred to, Deputy Speaker, they baited them into leaving the country. And they had 9 industry ministers in 9 years. 

 How could any one of those ministers even get on top of the portfolio? By the time they finish reading their briefs, they’re out the door, and the next person came in. And if that wasn’t bad enough; now in opposition, they’re playing the wreckers. They’re playing the role of wreckers. They’re opposing this fund. And what really gets to me, Deputy Speaker – what really grates – is that they are putting our national security at risk in doing this. The Minister for Industry pointed out, this week, that very fact: the opposition don’t seem to care that a big part of this fund is dedicated to advancing defence capability. That’s critical to Australia’s preparedness, both for working with our partners, for the Quad. They don’t care. They just want the politics of this; they just want to oppose. They’re not interested in our national security; they’re not interested in our national interests. It’s all short-term politics. The leopard hasn’t changed their spots; that’s what they were like in government. It was all about the short-term political message. Not about the long-term national interest. I remind those opposite that our partners – our regional partners, our allies, our friends – there is an expectation that Australia comes to the table with our efforts on technology and technological development and advancements; with our technological strength. And these developments are paramount to our national security and our national interest.  

The Minister for Industry noted that this National Reconstruction Fund is crucial to strengthening both our economic and our national security, long-term. That’s right; it’s about the long term. It’s not about the newspaper report the next day, which the opposition is so fond of trying to win. Yet despite the facts – the important fact that $2 billion of this National Reconstruction Fund is going to be pointed towards critical technology -AI, quantum technology, critical minerals – all of which are very important for our, as I said, the work that we’re doing with our international partners and our allies, both in the quad and in our AUKUS efforts for advanced capability. Despite this, the Coalition are still happy to stand in the way of this bill to oppose it. They talk a big game on national security Deputy Speaker. It’s a big talk, but when they’ve got the opportunity to walk the walk, they go and oppose. They go for the short-term political message. That’s not in Australia’s national interest. That’s not standing up for our national security. The fact that they are actively opposing this National Reconstruction fund is quite extraordinary. It’s extraordinary, given their rhetoric, and that needs to be called out; because on one side of the mouth they talk about our national security and getting our defence capability, and they make a big song and dance about that. And then they oppose the funding that will go towards those advanced capabilities. It’s extraordinary. 

 I’m interested to know from the opposition; what part of this National Reconstruction Fund do they actually oppose? Is it investment in renewable technology? Because you’ve been pretty much opposed to that right from the beginning. That could be it, Deputy Speaker. Is it an opposition to investment in advanced manufacturing capabilities? Is that what it is? Don’t think we could be that advanced? Don’t think we have the technology or the technical ability, or the workforce; is that what it is? You’re opposed to advanced manufacturing in this country? Because this is where this what this fund is largely about: getting that up and running and really turbocharging it. Are you opposed to that? Maybe not. Maybe they’re opposed, Deputy Speaker, to good, secure local jobs for Australians. Maybe, given the way they killed the car manufacturing industry in this country, and saw thousands of jobs walk out the door, and thousands of Australians lose their jobs in manufacturing, and then smoked a cigar about it and celebrated it, maybe they’re opposed to the job creation that comes out of this fund. Maybe that’s what it is. You know, I’m trying to guess here because I haven’t really heard any good reason. Are they opposed to creating jobs because this fund’s also going to create new jobs in new and advanced manufacturing jobs in technology? In exciting new sectors. Maybe they’re opposed to creating jobs, they don’t like that. Maybe not. Maybe, Deputy Speaker, they’re opposed to growing the economy. Maybe they don’t want Australia to succeed. That’d be a poor position to take as an opposition – “Let’s prevent the growth of the Australian economy by killing this fund” – that’s pretty cynical, if that’s what they’re doing it for.  

Let me ask this, are you opposed to making our supply chains more resilient? Which is a big part of this fund and the investment that goes to it. Is that what it is? Because we all saw how exposed our supply chains were over the last couple of years. So it really shocks me that you would be opposed to making those supply chains that we are so reliant on more resilient. I think it could be all of the above. It could be one or two of them; whatever their reasoning is, it is really making it harder for Australians to get those jobs and to do the things that we need to do in the coming decade. They are all opposition and no policy. And Deputy Speaker, I know it might be useless, it might be futile, there might be no point in it; but I ask the opposition to rethink. Rethink their position. Act in good faith. Negotiate on some amendments if that’s what it is. But outright opposition to the National Reconstruction Fund is outright opposition to advancing Australia and our national interests. That’s what it is, and you will be called out for it.  

The opposition will be called out for your wrecking. The wrecking ball that you’re putting to this bill. And the wrecking ball that you’re putting to Australian jobs; the wrecking ball that you’re putting to our advanced capability and our manufacturing in this country. I ask them to rethink. There are good members on the other side, Deputy Speaker, they care about Australia’s future. They care about Australia’s national interest. They would know that $15 billion invested in manufacturing in advanced manufacturing and technology and capability and supply chain resilience is good for Australia. Maybe they’ll have the courage in their party room to stand up to their leader and say “no”. We should negotiate. Let’s try to let’s try and put up an amendment or something, but we should back this bill in because it’s good for Australians, it’s good for our constituents. I’m asking you to back Australian-made. I’m asking you to back Australian jobs. I’m asking you to back the Australian economy. I’m asking you to do the right thing and not oppose the National Reconstruction Fund