2SM with Richard King

03 July 2024


RICHARD KING, HOST: It's coming up to a quarter to seven. The phrase investing in a Future Made in Australia. That was certainly the slogan repeated over and over in the federal budget documents, and the legislation will be introduced into parliament today. The press release from the Prime Minister's office and the Treasurer's office yesterday, a Future Made in Australia bill will build a stronger, cleaner economy. And with more on that, joining me now is the Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing NSW Labor Senator Tim Ayres is on the line. Good morning, Tim. Hang on, where are we? Morning, Tim.




KING: Yeah, well, nice to. Thank you very much for your time this morning. It's a little bit chilly, a little bit chilly and a little bit wet this morning. And just to those listening, if you're out driving, take it easy. If you're driving. Okay. Future Made in Australia. We've heard a lot about it. We've heard all sorts of bits and pieces. Exactly. What's, what's the intent of this, this bill?


AYRES: This is a very exciting week to be the Assistant Minister for Manufacturing in the Albanese Government. And it's an exciting week if you're interested in the future of manufacturing in Australia. This is the biggest pro manufacturing package in Australian history. It brings together all of the Albanese government's manufacturing strategy together. $22.7 billion worth of production tax credit support for industries of the future, the National Reconstruction Fund, $15 billion. We've got two focuses here in the Albanese government. One is on the here and now cost of living relief for ordinary Australian households. Every taxpayer getting a tax cut. Starting this week, wage increases, energy bill relief, but also, secondly, on the future of the Australian economy and making sure we build an economically resilient big manufacturing economy that's going to produce the jobs of the future.


KING: Angus Taylor, the shadow Treasurer, described this bill as giving billions to billionaires and said that if the Coalition were elected at the next federal election, they'd scrap this bill. What's your response to the suggestion this is all about giving billions to billionaires Tim?


AYRES: Well, two responses to that, really, Richard. The first is we are seeking here to harness private sector investment from the investment community around the world and the big manufacturing companies, big iron, big iron processing, critical minerals processing, steel processing, the big energy systems of the future. And the truth is you're engaging at the big table that's getting Australia up there, competing across the world for investment capital. And that does involve talking about projects that run into the many, many billions of dollars. That's the truth. And we are going to be in there with our sleeves rolled up, winning jobs and investment for Australia. The second response is this is an opposition that is so relentlessly negative, that lacks confidence in Australia's future, that is always talking Australia down. I believe that if we fight for a manufacturing future, we can create it. Think of your listening area. It's the energy capital of Australia. It's got enormous resources below the ground and above the ground in terms of its mineral resources above the ground in terms of the wind and solar capability that is there and the energy systems that are there, but also the people of the Hunter Valley with all of the capability and skills that are there. Now we get to choose either a diminishing industrial capability in your listing area or the manufacturing diversification that we need to build jobs and capabilities.


KING: Right. Okay.


AYRES: The future Made in Australia is all about that.


KING: Okay, but speaking of jobs, obviously, you know, if we're going to boost the manufacturing sector, there's going to be a demand for skilled labour, which at the moment is a demand we can't meet. So, what do we do about that?


AYRES: Well, that's why we've got Jobs and Skills Australia. All of these strategies across the government are about working together. So, Jobs and Skills Australia, our migration settings have to be right for the jobs of the future. We are investing in TAFE, and in many cases, free TAFE for young school leavers. The Hunter has always been good when big projects come along at mobilising people, skilled tradespeople, and at mobilising the firms, the industrial capability, the engineering firms to deal with biggest projects, whether it's, you know, think about back about the time that we've been talking about manufacturing the hunter, whether it's the mine hunters, whether it's coal mine constructions, whether it's big engineering projects. The Hunter's a good place to live. It's a good place for skilled tradespeople and engineers to work. We are determined to make sure that Australia doesn't lose the global race for jobs and investment. The world is changing fast, Richard. The trading environment is changing and we have to adjust to compete.


KING: I mentioned a moment ago Greece, which went belly up financially not that long ago, they're still trying to recover, but they have a similar problem. They talk about the twin perils of a shrinking population and shortage of skilled workers. They've decided to introduce a 48 hours working week when most of the rest of the world, western world, are going the other way. What's your thoughts on a 48 hours working week, Tim, to boost productivity?


AYRES: Well, I think productivity is all about working smarter. And the truth is productivity stalled in the Australian context, we've had the lowest productivity growth over the course of the last decade of the Morrison, Abbott, Turnbull governments. It's the lowest productivity growth in our history since we started recording it. One of the keys to lifting productivity is lifting the complexity and diversity of our economy. And as I say, looking around the world, what are our trading partners doing? The Americans out there with incentives, including the same production tax credits that we are offering in critical minerals processing, green iron and green steel offering incentives, and they are rebuilding their manufacturing capabilities. We have to focus on what is our comparative advantage here.


KING: Right.


AYRES: And that's got to be the focus. And the world isn't standing still waiting for Australia.


KING: Yes. One of the projects under this Future Made in Australia bill, which, as I said, goes to federal parliament today, or introduced to parliament today, is this solar sunshot building of the solar panels at the formula Liddell Power station. And of course, the Coalition is saying if they're elected, they want to put a nuclear power station there. Dick Smith is a big fan of nuclear. It's called on the government, and he's been saying it for a while, to scrap this ridiculous nuclear moratorium. Do you think that, look, regardless of which way we go, that that would be a first step, you know, in having a sensible discussion about nuclear. Getting rid of the ban on nuclear.


AYRES: Tim, it's pretty stark choice now, isn't it, for the third, particularly people in the Hunter Valley, the AGL side.


KING: Well, not just the Hunter Valley, really. Around the country, of course.


AYRES: But let's, let's focus on your listening area for us.


KING: Well, that takes in a big area. It takes in Sydney, too.


AYRES: Yeah, okay. Well, let's. Let's just talk about the Hunter Valley, as you say, the Liddell power station, another one of the facilities that has been slated for closure under the period of the Morrison government. Now, we've got a package that we've delivered the Solar Sunshot program to make sure that we build solar manufacturing capability here in Australia. On the back of that package, on the same day, a solar manufacturing facility announced for the Liddell power station to be on the premises of the Liddell power station that will employ more people at Liddell than have been employed there in living memory. That's our agenda. The Dutton agenda is, whether you like it or not, if Peter Dutton is elected, he will impose upon the people of NSW, upon the people of the Hunter, and on and on AGL itself, he says, whether they like it or not, whether they want to sell in the facility or not, a risky, expensive power station. Now a nuclear reactor that even if you don't want it, you're going to get it from Peter Dutton. And you look at what's going on around the world. The Hinkley power station, Hinkley nuclear power station of the United Kingdom, supposed to cost $35 billion at the beginning of construction, now costing $90 billion, more than three times the risk.


KING: Yeah.


AYRES: (inaudible)  it was supposed to open, best case scenario, till 2030. This is risky, uncosted. It's a hoax.


KING: All right. And they reckon that'll be the biggest. And I think that's going to be the biggest nuclear power station in the world. That one. Look, just quickly. Well, certainly the Labor MP everybody's talking about the moment is so called rogue WA Labor Senator Fatima payment. Are you one of the government MP's who are supporting her? Or do you think that she's done the wrong thing? Or do you think she should stick to her guns Tim?


AYRES: Oh, can I make it really clear, there is such a strong view across the caucus. We are part of a team that is delivering on cost of living relief now and the Future Made in Australia agenda for the future of the economy. That's our focus, the Albanese government. There is absolute unanimity across the caucus, across the Labor Caucus and the Labor government about keeping focused on the issues that matter for Australians. This is a big story in the corridors of Canberra and the press gallery, but I can assure you, Richard, that we are focused on the issues that matter. That's why we're part of the Labor government, that's why we're here.


KING: And I know as a Rabbitohs fan, you focused on the wonderful performance of your team. They've come from nowhere and playing pretty well, the Rabbits at the moment.


AYRES: Well, I'm really, really happy with their performance. We even won the by last weekend.


KING: Yes.


AYRES: It's really good. It's really good to see Souths after a period of adversity, you know, of everybody talking them down, of really lifting up as a team.


KING: All right, well, and good luck tomorrow night too, Tim. Look, thank you very much for your time and good luck with the FMIA bill which goes into parliament today. That's Labor NSW Senator Tim Ayres who is also the Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing.