Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (15:15): It's been 75 years since our 16th Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, took office. He was a great prime minister who was responsible for so many nation-building projects. He was a great prime minister; he was responsible for the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme, he helped set up the Australian National University, he set up the precursor to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, he pushed for public housing and he reorganised and enlarged the CSIRO. But the best vision of Ben Chifley was of him standing next to the Holden FX, the first Holden car, the first mass-produced vehicle in this country, which came out of Fishermans Bend in Melbourne. It's a point of pride to us because manufacturing is in the DNA of the Australian Labor Party. It means something deeply to us. It reflects a faith in Australian know-how, the capability of our workforce and the value of manufacturing to Australian wealth, jobs and supporting small business. It's why we fight so strongly for it.
The value of manufacturing in this nation has been particularly underscored over the course of last 12 months. The pandemic exercised so much pressure on the economy, but at its height we were worried about what was happening with facial masks, gowns and hand sanitiser. Where were those things getting made? They were all in short supply. There were concerns about the manufacture of potential vaccines.
Over the last few weeks I've been visiting manufacturers to hear about what they're doing. I'm proud, as the members who represent them are proud, to see what they're able to do: delivering for customers, creating work and generating jobs. But they still struggle with finding the skills, getting the support for R&D and getting financial support from banks. I spoke with one manufacturer who said: 'I've been a loyal customer of the bank for 10 years. It's easier to get a million dollars for a home than $500,000 to expand my business.' They want to see support for them to expand their businesses and generate jobs. That's what they want to see.
Confidence in manufacturing has been hammered in this country. We need strong action, urgent action. We've sent strong signals of support for manufacturing. Labor, when in government in 2013, released the plan for Australian jobs, the industry innovation statement, a detailed plan to boost manufacturing in areas of competitive advantage, such as advanced manufacturing, food manufacturing, mining equipment, energy and resources, digital, defence, space and medtech. That was released in 2013. What was the first thing the coalition did in 2014? They got rid of it. They got rid of the plan as their first action. I'll come back to that.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his budget reply speech, re-ignited our commitment in terms of manufacturing with plans to advance a future made in Australia, rebuilding national manufacturing, with a comprehensive plan for jobs. In terms of advancing things like, for example, a national rail manufacturing plan, a defence industry development strategy and an Australian skills guarantee, all these things are designed to boost and support manufacturing in this country.
Then you look at the other side. As I said, in 2014, the very first thing they did when they got into manufacturing was to kill the plan that would have set us up to see manufacturing and jobs grow in the longer term. That's the first thing they did. They dumped the instant asset write-off, and then they brought it back. They abolished the loss carry-back, and then they brought it back. They threatened to cut $2 billion out of R&D support in this country, and then they relented. At that dispatch box, their then Treasurer, Joe Hockey, dared auto manufacturers to leave the country. What did they do?
They left—and all those jobs went with them.
They've failed on energy policy, so important to manufacturing. Twenty plans—gone; nowhere. They've depleted skills, with 150,000 apprenticeships cut. And we have a manufacturing deficit in this country: Australians use
$365 billion of manufactured goods each year but we produce $380 billion. That shows you what's happened: attack after attack after attack.
We've looked at what's gone on. What's the result of all this? The Australia Institute's Centre for Future Work says Australia ranks last in a list of OECD countries in terms of manufacturing self-sufficiency. Less than one
million people work in the manufacturing sector, accounting for 6.4 per cent of jobs, which has declined from
16.5 per cent in the late 1980s—a huge contraction in manufacturing jobs. Ninety thousand jobs have gone during this term of government. The Harvard University's Economic Complexity Index assesses the complexity of economies based on the diversity and complexity of their exports. Australia ranked 50 on that index in 1995 but had dropped to 93 in 2017. That is the legacy of this government.
Now—and I note that the minister is in the House—they have brought forward a 'modern manufacturing' fund, which, funnily enough—
Mr Albanese: Guess what!
Mr HUSIC: guess what!—focuses on all the things we focused on in 2014! We are very grateful. A government member interjecting—
Mr HUSIC: But you abolished it. You abolished it, and we lost seven years—seven important years where we could have had our manufacturing capacity built, after we saw everything that I referred to a few moments ago about the impact on jobs and the impact on the economy, and all because, in 2014, they were cheering that they were tearing everything up, just to differentiate themselves from our side. But someone paid the cost, and it was average Australian workers who did, and they didn't deserve that.
Also, as to that fund, the minister herself indicated, soon after it was announced, that less than three per cent of the funding will be available for manufacturers this financial year. Now, the minister may have an update, but there's no point announcing a big plan and not being able to deliver; there's no point raising expectations about what this thing will do and then release only three per cent of funding this year—this year! We're at a time where we need urgency and energy and drive on all this. We need them to deliver.
But, when it comes to manufacturing, the thing they are good at is: manufacturing a slogan. There's always a label. There's always a photo opportunity. There's always something out there to just say, 'We're doing something,' but, when it comes to delivering something—nothing; nothing at all. So they are good at slogans.
What's the other thing they're good at? Rorts! Ooh, they're so good at rorts! Look at this, for example. There was a Sydney Morning Herald account of the first round of funding under the SME Export Hubs grants. The bulk of the grants, eight of the nine projects—where were they? Have a guess where those projects were.
Mr Albanese: Their seats? Don't tell me!
Mr HUSIC: They just happened to be in coalition seats. And one was shared between the coalition and also Labor.
Honourable members interjecting—
Mr HUSIC: Let me make this point. There is no— Opposition members interjecting—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Llew O'Brien ): Members on my left will stop interjecting.
Mr HUSIC: There is absolutely no political party that actually believed in manufacturing that would think— The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The minister will pause for a moment—
Mr HUSIC: Thanks for the promotion!
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Members on my left will stop interjecting. I'm finding it difficult to hear the member's contribution. The member will continue.
Mr HUSIC: No political party that actually believes in manufacturing would think that their first order of business was to hammer manufacturing—to cut support to manufacturing. But that is exactly what they did. When they goaded manufacturers from our shores and presided over the depletion of skills, they destroyed the
viability of small manufacturers. That's exactly what they did. That betrays their utter lack of belief in Australian know-how and in manufacturing jobs.
But this side gets manufacturing. This side, and the people who sit on this side, get it. They've got families in manufacturing and friends who've worked in manufacturing, or they are MPs proud to show off what's happening in their electorates—like Humes pipes, in the seat of Makin, a concrete pipe manufacturer; or, in the seat of Oxley, PFi manufacturing, with a space industry focus; or Keech 3D Advanced Manufacturing in the seat of Bendigo; or State Asphalt in New South Wales in the seat of Werriwa. All these players are doing great things, but what they need is support and faith. They need faith in manufacturing. When it comes to Australian manufacturing, we want to send this signal to industry and its workers: Australian Labor is on the side of Australian manufacturing and the workers who have a livelihood from it.