Address to AusRAIL Conferenece

16 November 2023


I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which this event is being held, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

I pay my respects to their Elders past and present, and to First Nations people here today.

I would also like to thank Caroline Wilkie and Danny Broad of the Australasian Railway Association for the opportunity to speak today, and for their ongoing work to promote and support the rail sector.

The Albanese Government has big ambition for Australian manufacturing. To meet the big challenges of our age we will need to actively lift Australia’s economic complexity, and our position in global and regional supply chains to advance our economic and broader security in our region.

No more complacency.

That is why the Albanese Government has a delivered the largest ever peacetime commitment from government to Australian industry:

  • $15 billon for the National Reconstruction Fund,
  • $20 billion Rewiring the Nation funding,
  • $2 billion Hydrogen Headstart program,
  • $400 million Industry Growth Program.

Rail manufacturing is at the centre of our vision for the future of Australian manufacturing.

Rail has been at the heart of Australia’s economic and social development since the first steam locomotive was built in Melbourne in the 1854.

Locomotive and carriage workshops in industrial centres across the country continue to build the passenger and freight trains which connect our communities and power our economy.

Regional communities like Newcastle, Ballarat and Maryborough rely upon these workplaces to deliver good jobs, apprenticeships, and commercial opportunities for small and medium businesses to participate in the manufacturing supply chain.

Losing this capability would be a tragedy for Australia.

Decisions to offshore manufacturing have pushed Australia perilously close to reaching an industrial tipping point where this industry is lost forever.

We can, and must, do better.

In coming decades, government and private sector spending on rail projects will exceed $100 billion.[1]

The Albanese Government committed to delivering the National Rail Manufacturing Plan at the last election.

The Plan is an ambitious commitment to build long term domestic industrial capability and help ensure this capability delivers good jobs in our outer suburbs and regions.

Trains designed and built to Australia’s unique conditions will lower costs for government and industry, improve the quality of the commuter experience and lower our national transport emissions.

To deliver this, investments need to be made in a more nationally coordinated way.

A report by the Australasian Railway Association found that taxpayers would have saved $1.85 billion over the last 10 years if state rolling stock contracts had been better coordinated.[2]

In part, this is because rail in Australia has existed largely as a series of independent location-based networks with different rail gauges, signalling systems, rolling stock and technologies.

More recent ARA research has confirmed that a lack of coordination by procurers is costing the rail industry $230 million a year.[3]

Today, I am pleased to launch the cornerstone of our National Rail Manufacturing Plan – the National Rail Procurement and Manufacturing Strategy.

This strategy sets out six pillars of action the Government, in partnership with states and territories, will undertake over the next few years.

These are:

  1. Developing a nationally coordinated approach to rolling stock procurement
  2. Harmonising standards for manufacturing rolling stock
  3. Adopting a national local content approach
  4. Maximising opportunities for freight and heavy haul rail manufacturing
  5. Improving research and innovation outcomes in the rail sector
  6. Establishing the foundation for good jobs and rewarding careers in rail manufacturing

The Government is determined to start delivering on these actions immediately. For example, under Pillar 1, we will publish a national rolling stock procurement pipeline in the first half of next year.

Greater transparency of the national rail procurement pipeline is the first step in achieving more coordinated procurement and will enable industry to begin making investment decisions about long term infrastructure, facilities and workforce capability.

Over time, this will provide the economies of scale required for Australian rail manufacturing to become more competitive in international supply chains.

A significant number of you here today have helped shape the strategy’s development and I thank you for your contribution.

I would also like to thank each state and territory government, Jacqui Walters, the National Rail Manufacturing Advocate, and the Rail Industry Innovation Council, for their contributions to this high-quality strategy.

I look forward to continuing to work with you all to deliver a future made in Australia – with more good jobs, and locally made passenger and freight rolling stock, with lower emissions and a better commuter experience.

Thank you.