The National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Bill 2022 is a big step forward, both for manufacturing and for jobs in our country. The opportunities that are presented by the National Reconstruction Fund have the potential to shape the future of Australian industry. While some in this country—and that does include those opposite—gave up on Australia having a future in manufacturing and our industrial capability, this government has not.
We know that Australia can be a country that makes things once again. We can have a bright future as a country that makes world-class products right here. We can secure our own future by supporting, diversifying and transforming industry and creating secure, well-paid, good, sustainable jobs not only for those people who are working now but also for those who will enter the workforce in the future. This is such an exciting opportunity, and this government knows that the future ahead of our country is one where we make things here in Australia.
We’ve seen in the past that funds similar to this can have a big impact. We’ve seen the value that comes from having a body like the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for the climate and energy sectors. This $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund Corporation will do the same work for manufacturing in our country. It is the biggest government investment in manufacturing in living memory. It is so important that this government gets behind and backs Australian manufacturing and Australian industry.
Importantly, it will have an independent board to assess projects at arm’s length from government; to provide equity, loans and guarantees; to back in Australian businesses and our knowledge base and our people; and to see returns on investment in the longer term to allow for reinvestment—and so on and so on. What we are starting here is something that will provide a legacy for Australians to come and a legacy for Australian manufacturing and industry to come. Throughout this period, it will be creating secure, well-paid jobs.
Our country learnt a lot of lessons through the recent pandemic, and some of those lessons are very pertinent to what is trying to be achieved through this fund and this bill. We did learn that our supply chains have vulnerabilities. We cannot entirely rely on things being able to be manufactured, things that we need in our country for the safety of people in this country, and know that we will always have access to those things. We learnt that we need to become stronger and more self-sufficient in many areas and that we do, in fact, have the domestic capability in our country to not only support ourselves but also sell that capability to the world. That’s the future that’s in front of us—that ability to not only support people and industry and manufacturing here but also be a place where people around the world come to Australia looking for those products, looking for that knowledge and looking for that manufacturing base.
The National Reconstruction Fund will help us achieve all of this. The fund will provide capital to capture new high-value market opportunities, and it means that, when capital markets tighten, it will provide those longer term co-investment funds for industries and investors that are so important. It will drive Australia’s sustainable economic growth, and with that it will drive jobs—good jobs. It will enable Australian companies to plan ahead—to know that they can make these investments that mean that they will be here for the long-term, and to consider the long-term projects that help with innovation and adapting new technologies. It is a really exciting future ahead of us.
Our government wants to turn back the years of neglect we saw under the coalition government. We know that they left Australia’s manufacturing industry in tatters. We felt the effects of that during the pandemic. Those opposite baited the Australian car industry to leave our shores, and, guess what? They took up the invitation. They’re gone. I hear from manufacturers in my electorate about the flow-on impacts of that decision, not just for those who were directly involved in manufacturing those cars but for all the small enterprises who were supplying parts. There is the lack of knowledge now that we have in our country from that entire industry going, because those opposite told them they were welcome to shut up and leave and failed to support Australian manufacturing.
When those opposite did made decisions, it was not in the interests of Australians. It was them backing in selected supporters who they chose to throw their weight behind. Under their watch, we have seen far too many good ideas that were grown right here in Australia, and that should have been Australian products and Australian ideas, leave. That’s because they couldn’t get the support they should have got from the Australian government at the time.
Things are going to be different under this government. By letting the opportunities go, the previous government, the Liberal-National government, let go more jobs. They let go the industries we should have in this country—the jobs, the knowledge, the skills. They let go Australians with bright ideas who just needed support, government investment and surety to make a go of it.
This government wants Australian manufacturing to come home. We want the people who want to work in Australian manufacturing, who want to bring their knowledge and skills to Australian manufacturing and industry, to come home. We want them and we want budding innovators here to know that Australia not only welcomes them and their ideas but is going to support them. We’re going to back them in. We will empower the National Reconstruction Fund to invest in Australians and in their experience and knowledge. Through the fund, our government wants to make the most of Australia’s strengths. We want to back-in industries that we know are important, both now and in the future.
Importantly, that does include renewables and low-emissions technologies. This is a massive area of potential growth for our country. We can, indeed, be a clean-energy superpower, and that comes with government backing this industry. Up to $3 billion of the National Reconstruction Fund will be set aside for targeted investment and for opportunities like wind turbine components, the production of batteries and solar panels, new livestock feed to reduce methane emissions, modernising steel and aluminium, finding solutions to reduce packaging waste and developing ways to make food that is low in impact and high in nutrition. These are products that are ideal for exporting. There is a lot of potential for our country in this space.
Australia is already a world leader in medical research, but, again, there is more than we could be doing. Another of the funds targets will be leveraging this expertise to provide essential medical supplies like medical devices, personal protective equipment, medicines and vaccines. We will value-adding in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, unlocking our country’s potential in food processing, textiles, clothing and footwear manufacturing. We will be backing in transport manufacturing, developing capabilities and supply chains for cars, trains and shipbuilding.
My electorate of Jagajaga is not concentrated with manufacturing, but we do have some strong local manufacturers based there. I know from talking to them over the years that they are looking for government to back Australian industry and Australian manufacturing. In Heidelberg West, we have a precinct of 600 businesses, including manufacturing, warehousing and commercial businesses, as well as growing technology production and related services. The backing the government is giving in this fund will support my business community in Heidelberg West to do what they are already doing well, but they need government support to go even further. There a companies like Leeson Solar, who are absolutely passionate about the growing uptake of solar for homes and businesses, and who are breaking the mould when it comes to the solar industry and the directions it can take in this country. I’m excited about what this fund might mean for them. And outside of that immediate precinct in Heidelberg West, across the electorate, I’m excited about what this fund might mean for companies like Lovitt Technologies in Greensborough, who are already doing great work in precision engineering and in the aerospace industry. These are the companies that governments should be backing in and that governments should be supporting. I’m so proud that this Labor government is doing exactly that.
The National Reconstruction Fund will supercharge the opportunities for Australian manufacturing. It will be supporting Australian businesses and Australian workers. There’s so much potential here in Australia. It is up to us to harness that potential. It’s up to us to grow our ability to make world-class products right here, to bring out the best of Australian expertise and ideas and to allow for investment that delivers good, long-term, secure jobs for Australians now and into the future. This government will not be goading industries to leave. We will be backing in Australian manufacturing and Australian industry and we know that this means a brighter future for all Australians.