Labor senator and Northern Australia Shadow Minister Murray Watt. Photo: Mick Tsikas
Labor senator and Northern Australia Shadow Minister Murray Watt. Photo: Mick Tsikas

‘So much potential’ for CQ in proposed manufacturing drive

A $15 billion federal fund that would be legislated by an elected Labor Party promised to revive manufacturing in Central Queensland, but was criticised on Tuesday as a “subsidise it and hope” approach.

The National Reconstruction Fund, announced this week, is meant to make Australia more economically independent and develop regional economies.

It would provide $15 billion to the private sector, including superannuation funds, through loans, equity, co-investment and guarantees, with an expectation of a return on all borrowing above the government borrowing rate.

Labor senator and Northern Australia Shadow Minister Murray Watt said the plan would put Central Queensland “at the front of the queue” to recover from recession and create a “new era” of manufacturing.

“This fund is all about boosting jobs in CQ’s existing industries and building the new ones,” he said.

“Manufacturing is an important industry to all of Central Queensland and delivers Australian-made products along with well-paid, skilled local jobs.

“There’s so much potential for Rocky and Gladstone in particular to power a new era of advanced manufacturing – in rail, marine, defence, food, and minerals processing.

“The Morrison Government has turned its back on manufacturing for years, but that needs to stop.

“Labor will invest in the infrastructure, skills and jobs that are critical to the future development of CQ.”

Member for Capricornia and Northern Australia Assistant Minister Michelle Landry said Mr Watt’s track record proved he was “completely ambivalent to manufacturing in Central Queensland”.

“He still owes Central Queenslanders answers on his position and involvement in the decision to sell off the railyards in Rockhampton throwing hundreds of Central Queensland workers on the scrap heap.

“Labor has an appalling track record when it comes to manufacturing, underpinned by a ‘subsidise it and hope’ mentality.

“We [the LNP] have a laser focus on bringing industry with us, as we help our manufacturers to become more competitive, resilient and scale up to take on the world.”

Member for Capricornia and Northern Australia Assistant Minister Michelle Landry. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Member for Capricornia and Northern Australia Assistant Minister Michelle Landry. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

The industrialisation pitch made by Labor leader Anthony Albanese included fears about the instability of global supply chains during emergencies and the need for Australia to have increased “sovereign capabilities”.

“The COVID pandemic has exposed serious deficiencies in Australia’s economy, in particular our ability to manufacture products and be globally competitive when it comes to innovation and technology,” Mr Albanese said.

“If there is anything that COVID has taught us, it is the need for Australia to be a place which makes things-to have our own industrial and manufacturing capabilities – our own sovereign capabilities.

“From commercialising our historic capacity in science and innovation to boosting the development of medical devices and pharmaceuticals, through to reviving our capability to make cars, trains, and ships, today’s announcement will support the businesses in these industries to secure the capital and investment to grow and prosper.”

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said the fund would apply to mining, agriculture, medical research, transport, the defence industry, robotics, data science, and artificial intelligence.

“Australia needs to climb the technological ladder,” he said.

“We need to put ourselves on the path of becoming the most modern country in the world.”

He did not say which of those industries he considered globally competitive, what implications the fund would have on trade and foreign policy, how it would affect the cost of goods in Australia, or whether it reflected a general intention to turn away from globalisation and free trade towards economic nationalism.

The National Reconstruction Fund would be legislated with an independent board.



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