I rise to speak on the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Bill 2022. I say that for the benefit of those listening, because the member for Riverina obviously brought in the wrong notes for the wrong speech for the wrong piece of government legislation. Unbelievably, he did stumble on the title for the legislation in the last 30 seconds of his speech but then quickly backed away from it!
The Australian Labor Party is committed to manufacturing. Manufacturing matters to the people of Australia. I know it does in my community of Moreton and especially to everyone in the mighty Australian Labor Party. Why does it matter? Because it's a driver for jobs. And I don't mean that unpaid-slavery-sort of work; I'm talking about meaningful, secure full-time jobs. For way too long, manufacturing was neglected by the former coalition government, which is perhaps why the member for Riverina, despite having a lunch break to work on his speech, did not actually address the issue of manufacturing and all that will flow from the National Reconstruction Fund.
Who can forget when the then treasurer Joe Hockey stood right at that dispatch box and dared Holden to pack up and leave Australia? I remember that. Nick Champion, one of my friends who got elected at the same time, would remember that. The first Holden rolled out in his electorate, and he saw Joe Hockey do that. And what did Holden do? They packed up and left Australia. How many jobs were lost, not just from the Holden plant but from all of those associated jobs? There were export jobs as well. Not only jobs in the manufacturing the cars but those associated manufacturers and suppliers who relied on Holden and the like. I'm sure all of my colleagues from South Australia know firsthand the devastation it had on local economies when those doors closed at Holden.
In Queensland, we have our own stories of how an LNP government failed to trust and support local manufacturing. I remember the disastrous decision by the Newman Liberal National Party government to order trains from overseas. No guesses for how things turned out when that genius let his ideology dictate policy. When the trains eventually arrived, not only did they not meet basic disability access requirements; they needed even more modifications, including air conditioning, ventilation, braking and sight lines for drivers. Thankfully, the great train-building community of Maryborough stepped up to the plate to rectify Mr Newman's defective trains. That was in an electorate that is not held by the federal Labor government, but still we invest in making trains. I note that the Prime Minister has been to that Maryborough train factory many times.
Thankfully, the Queensland state Labor government just a few weeks ago announced that Downer, in Maryborough, again will build a new fleet of trains. Queensland workers are building Queensland trains for Queenslanders. Can you imagine the positive economic impact this is having on the Maryborough community? I'm not sure that the local member for Wide Bay, Mr O'Brien, or Queensland senators Matt Canavan or James McGrath have ever visited Downer and Maryborough lately and seen what is happening there. They could be taken on a tour by the Prime Minister, he's visited that often. I have the mobile of the state Labor member for Maryborough, Bruce Saunders; I'm sure I could organise a visit for all of those gentlemen and he would be happy to take them on a tour.
It's regional communities, like Maryborough, like the one represented by the member for Riverina, that will really benefit from this National Reconstruction Fund. The $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund is the mechanism to support, diversify and transform Australia's industry and to create sustainable, well-paying jobs. Hopefully some of it will come to inner city seats like Moreton, but we know most of them will be in the regions, the areas represented by the Nationals.
The NRF will provide finance, including loans, guarantees and equity to drive investments in seven priority areas of the Australian economy. It will leverage our natural and competitive strengths and support the development of strategically important industries and shore up supply chains. The seven priority areas include value-adding resources, which means expanding Australians' mining science technology and ensuring a greater share of raw materials that have been extracted from the ground are then processed domestically—for example, the high-purity alumina from red mud in bauxite processing or lithium processing for batteries. This is to add as much value as possible here in Australia before we send those resources overseas. It includes value-adding in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors, where we will unlock the potential and value-add to raw materials in things like food processing, textiles, clothing and footwear manufacturing. We know that we grow enough food and fibre for 75 million people in the world when we've got only 25 million here, so let's value-add all the way along and get those good jobs.
We'll develop capabilities in transport manufacturing and supply chains, including for the electric cars of the future, trains and shipbuilding. In medical science we will leverage Australia's world-leading research to provide essential supplies such as medical devices, personal protective excitement, medicines and vaccines. I know one of the advanced manufacturing plants in my electorate, Cook Medical, is where they tailor-make aortas. I have seen rooms full of, mainly, women sewing up the aortas that are going to be shipped off to Germany, California or wherever. It is unbelievable.
There are renewables and low emission technologies, the way of the future. we will pursue commercial opportunities, including for components for wind turbines, production of batteries and solar panels, new livestock feed to reduce methane, emissions, modernising steel and aluminium, hydrogen electrolysers, innovative package solutions that reduce waste and defence capability. We will maximise the sourcing of requirements from Australian suppliers employing Australian workers, whether that be technology, infrastructure or skills.
Lastly, enabling technologies will support those key enabling capabilities across engineering, data, science and software development, including the emerging areas, like artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum.
This is why the Albanese government's National Reconstruction Fund is so important to manufacturing in our nation. I'm disappointed those opposite have taken this as an opportunity to sledge rather than explore the future. They're happy to dredge up the past rather than look to the future. They're so scared of the future. We all saw during the pandemic how international supply chains could so easily result in major disruptions. It shone a light on how important manufacturing was to Australia. It demonstrated how vulnerable we are down under and how crucial it is to establish resilient and robust domestic production capacity—that little bit of economic nationalism.
The pandemic also reminded us of how innovative our local manufacturing can be and of the skills and production that is there that, sadly, the previous government failed to support and invest in. Before the pandemic, just five per cent of personal protective equipment, PPE, used in Australia was made in Australia. Put simply, we didn't have the manufacturing capacity to meet demand. But the Palaszczuk Labor government moved quickly at the time on this supply and production issue. They mobilised local manufacturing to deliver PPE and COVID-19 related equipment for frontline health and essential workers.
Our local manufacturing businesses quickly pivoted and stepped up to the challenge. I'll mention a few of my local businesses that did this. Belgotex at Acacia Ridge, one of Queensland's only textile manufacturers, purchased special looms, upskilled their workforce and commenced making special-gauge fabrics for local PPE production. The lightweight tight-weave fabric can be used to make medical scrubs, uniforms, hospital linen, sheeting, privacy screens, reusable face masks and gowns for frontline health workers. Imagine how many lives Belgotex at Acacia Ridge has saved in Queensland.
AnteoTech at Eight Mile Plains launched its 15-minute COVID-19 antigen rapid test platform, EuGeni. This project created five new, highly skilled jobs and protected 20 existing jobs.
EGR—a business that I drive past every day I go to work—a 46-year-old car accessories manufacturer at Salisbury, pivoted early in 2020 to produce protective face shields for frontline workers. EGR export bumper bars to Germany for German cars. They are very competitive, but they immediately changed. Their 800 staff were set up to mass produce the equipment at a rate of hundreds of thousands a day.
These are just a few of the local manufacturing businesses in my electorate, and there are many others, who pivoted when Australians needed them most. Sadly, the Morrison government didn't back in local businesses. In deciding to award contracts for PPE that could have been filled by local manufacturing businesses, they instead went offshore. Shame! As I said, a little bit of economic nationalism goes a long way in a crisis.
Being able to manufacture, innovate, build and create products right here in Australia is so important for our security and long-term prosperity. Australia is rich in valuable critical resources that the world wants and needs—resources we could rightly have expected would be used to build our manufacturing base to add value and create secure jobs right here in Australia, in our suburbs, in the bush and in our regional communities. But for decades we've mined those resources all too often and shipped them overseas, only for other countries to process, add value and then have us buy them at the local shop. We import them back at many times the price, sending the manufacturing industry and their profits and the thousands of jobs they create to other countries. If we mine it here, we should make it here, wherever possible.
Australian know-how, our scientists, our innovators and our capital are amongst the best in the world. Photovoltaic technology solar cells were invented here, but today 87 per cent of the world's cells are made in the one country, and in the next three years that number is expected to rise to 94 per cent. As the world urgently focuses on decarbonisation, the transition to renewables and low-emission technologies will play a vital role in delivering Australia's emissions reduction target of 43 per cent by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.
We're well placed to make the most of our technology and our skills. If we invent it here, we should make it here and monetise it here. We've seen what happens when Australia fails to back itself and when we fail to back our people—those people go overseas. We've seen that brain drain in the past. They take their experience, their know-how and their passion with them. We want Australians living overseas who have the skills and know-how to come home to good careers here. We recognise many of them left our shores seeking support and funding for their ideas.
Sadly, that girt-by-sea capital is a little too risk averse when it comes to backing in innovation. Too often, good ideas can't find support and funding and the right sort of helping hand at home. We want to empower the NRF to invest in Australians for Australia—Australian know-how, Australian ideas and Australian ingenuity. Both this bill and the investment mandate guiding investments will make sure the $15 billion fund drives Australia's natural inclination towards innovation.
The Department of Industry, Science and Resources has consulted widely both on the structure of the legislation and, most recently, on how the NRF will be implemented. Partnering and working with industry is vital, so co-investment plans will be developed with industry. These will outline investment opportunities in priority areas and actions for government and industry to build our industrial capabilities. The minister has said that plans are expected to be released by the end of this year.
Importantly, the NRF's investment decisions will be independent and at arm's length from government. We know the coalition aren't big fans of independent decision-making. For too long while they were in government, decisions were made in the interests of the coalition and their mates, not in the interests of Australia. Who can forget the stench of those colour coded spreadsheets and then the odour of mendacity associated with defending those dodgy, dubious, devious decisions—or a minister approving a grant to clay target shooting clubs that they were a member of? It was appalling behaviour and a clear demonstration of the coalition putting their interests or their mates' interests ahead of the Australian people, the Australian taxpayers.
Is there a flaw in the coalition's DNA? You don't have the answer to that, but I will take a closer look at the LNP-led Brisbane City Council, which failed to heed the mistakes of the Newman government and recently ordered their new bendy buses from overseas. At a time when we want to grow jobs and build industry skills and capacity onshore, Lord Mayor Schrinner decided to go offshore. Why not invest in local companies and create local jobs and even new and bigger industries right here in Australia?
Just two weeks ago I stopped to visit a local business, Bus Stop, which is located in Rocklea. It's a local family-operated business with more than 50 years experience in servicing and manufacturing buses. About three years ago they transitioned away from diesel to manufacturing and assembling electric coaches and buses for schools. Just imagine if the coalition had invested in and supported this wonderful local business by assisting in creating a vibrant and robust local bus manufacturing industry with jobs of the future, the way the Labor Palaszczuk is doing and the way the NRF will do.
What do the Liberals and Nationals have against workers in manufacturing? I shook my head in disbelief when I was listening to the opposition leader saying that the Liberals were the party of the Australian working class. That is such a joke! I'm not sure if politicians are eligible for the Logies, but the member for Dickson is surely a frontrunner already. Remember, this is the party that had the economic strategy of deliberately ensuring wages were kept low. We believe in investing in manufacturing.