The opportunities manufacturing presents

24 May, 2023

I have had a bit of a giggle around what has been proposed today by the government. The member for Kennedy and I have been around for long enough to know that the issues around manufacturing and the policies around manufacturing have been a contest for every government that has come to power. And mostly, as the member for Kennedy knows, for a lot of our manufacturing we try to get governments involved in to push in one direction or push in another direction. I was here for the Button plan all those years ago. That was meant to work on behalf of the car manufacturers, but we were being pushed by what was happening around the world, not by what was happening here in Australia. We can fund aluminium production in western Victoria, but it's at a huge cost to the Victorian government and a huge cost to taxpayers.

I don't know whether we chase manufacturing like that, but it does create jobs within communities and it does give opportunities for people to have a lifestyle they wouldn't otherwise have. But, importantly, we know that it doesn't matter how governments come along and push and shape and pull, the great tragedy—and I would agree with one of the members who mentioned this a minute ago—is that we lost our car industry, especially when I know that the Germans subsidise their car industry at a much higher level than we ever did. There's a difference though. They own their car industry. They are German manufacturers. They are German companies. Ours were a Japanese company in Nissan, a Japanese company in Toyota, an American company and—you're all too young to remember this—English companies in Leyland and Austin and all of those who went before them. I know these things. I love cars. I'm interested in cars. I'm interested in manufacturing in this country.

I understand what the member for Hinkler said when he said, 'You can't have manufacturing unless you have really competitive energy prices,' which is exactly what Victoria was built on all those years ago. It was built on the power that came out of part of my electorate in La Trobe Valley. It powered a nation under the Bolte government and was the largest manufacturing sector in Australia in Victoria.

The world changed that. We didn't change that. The manufacturing of footwear and clothing moved from this country to another, because they did it so much cheaper than we did. The Japanese started to produce fabrics and we were unable to compete with them here. The Egyptians started to produce wool that we weren't able to competitively do here. All of a sudden, your lambswool jumpers that were made in Australia were too dear; they could be imported for half the price. So our own retailers and wholesalers went straight to the Chinese and said, 'You do this for us,' to the Japanese, 'You do this for us,' to the Egyptians and the English, 'You do this for us.' The English were having their tweeds made in Egypt! I have proof of this, because I was there—as I was watching it go through the machines in Egypt, it had 'Made in England' written on the side of the fabric! So we think we're buying something that's literally woven and manufactured in England, and we're getting the opposite—we're getting something that's done in Egypt.

We now live in a world where the input into manufacturing goods and services comes from all over the world. It doesn't come from just one spot. There was a great food manufacturer named Heinz in my community, and I said to them: 'Where do you source all this? Do you source all this cheese locally?' They said, 'No, that came from Belgium, and that came from—' wherever they can get it the cheapest.

I say to you: be considerate and don't go back to every government for the last 10 years and say you were the worst government in history when it came to manufacturing, because that's just not the truth. Every government that I've seen in power in this country wants the jobs and opportunities that are presented by manufacturing here in Australia. I want to see the government succeed in manufacturing so there are jobs on the ground for people, there are opportunities to educate their children and there are opportunities for those who worked in manufacturing for a long time to grow old gracefully.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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