Regional Australia will lead the country’s post-COVID economic recovery under the National Party’s ambitious plan to modernise and rejuvenate Australian manufacturing.
The Nationals believe there is an abundance of resources and opportunities for regional communities to be the value-add pacesetters by focusing on the entire supply chain and not just the original raw product, according to the Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Bridget McKenzie.
“We need to have strategic capability in our own country and regional Australia has a significant role to play in doing that,” McKenzie said.
“The Nationals manufacturing vision – Manufacturing 2035 - will deliver jobs, it will get production lines humming and restore our sovereign manufacturing capability.”
Senator McKenzie said the plan will deliver 800,000 new manufacturing jobs by 2035.
“This is proudly ambitious and is achievable,” she said.
“The global COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the need to protect supply chains in essential products, such as medical supplies and food and beverages.”
Manufacturing 2035 is the culmination of extensive roundtable and video teleconferences with manufacturers from across regional Australia.
“It was a delight to meet and hear from so many regional manufactures and be able to incorporate their vision into what will be Australia’s most ambitious manufacturing program since World War Two,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Many countries have government-backed lending facilities to support investments in manufacturing, we should establish a $5 billion manufacturing concessional loan program to support investments in our manufacturing sector.
“A renewed focus on the revival of Australian manufacturing, along with the designation of a number of strategic areas and the allocation of dedicated funding, warrants regionally based Offices of Regional Manufacturing to support the regions in achieving this ambitious goal.”
The report support Offices of Regional Manufacturing in Gladstone and Newcastle with a mandate to achieve specific growth targets in Australian manufacturing’s priority areas.
Over 30 per cent of Australians employed in manufacturing are in areas outside of capital cities.
“The establishment of two decentralised Offices of Regional Manufacturing in Gladstone and Newcastle speaks to the value of the regions and their potential to become the backbone of Australia’s manufacturing industries,” the report said.
“The selection of these existing large regional hubs makes practical sense given their existing manufacturing footprint and access to key infrastructure and inputs.”
The nine point plan also includes tax incentives to encourage investment and R&D, a new oil province to replace Bass Strait and more infrastructure to support manufacturing including coal and gas fired power for reliable and affordable energy.
“Manufacturing has played a crucial role in the development of many regional towns,” McKenzie said.
“Private investment also has a key role to play and one way to encourage the private sector is for the Australian Government to provide tax incentives for manufacturing-based investment.”
The report said the main barrier to Australian manufacturing strength over the past decade has been Australia’s high energy costs.
“The way to get power prices down is simple. We need more supply of affordable and reliable power. Intermittent renewable power is not the answer to restore Australia’s manufacturing strength,” the report said.
“As a recent Australian Energy Market Operator reported, Australia will need six to 19 GW of reliable power to back up renewables over the next 20 years. That is in effect around four to 12 coal fired power stations.
“Australia needs to build modern coal fired power stations to help manufacturing industries.”
Last year the Federal Opposition launched a $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy of its own.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said Labor would also launch a Defence Industry Development Strategy to ensure that the planned $270 billion investment pipeline over the next decade is used to develop sovereign industrial and research capabilities and build skills and expertise within the Australian workforce.
“These investments in national security should also deliver a dividend for national skills, training, research and manufacturing,” Albanese said.
Australia should aim to be a “renewable energy superpower”, with clean energy driving metal manufacturing and hydrogen production, he said.
Labor would create the Rewiring the Nation Corporation to rebuild and modernise the national energy grid.