03 July 2024

MATT “MACCA” MACCARTHY, HOST: What's happened with the Coalition? Obviously, it's sticky taped back together now, but would have been interesting talks in the halls of Labor around the water cooler this week.


SENATOR TIM AYRES, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TRADE AND MANUFACTURING: Well, I've been watching the Coalition on supermarket policy and on nuclear. I mean, this is the problem when you don't have a fair dinkum policy making process. So, they've released this nuclear policy that's uncosted. We know it's the most expensive form of power. I understand there's anxiety in regional communities too about making sure the rollout of transmission and renewables happens in a way that's sensitive to country communities that's got to be worked through. I get that. But this nuclear proposition; uncosted, expensive. In other areas, like overseas, you watch some of these projects triple the budget. You know, in the Hinkley power station in the United Kingdom, $95 billion – [it] was supposed to cost $30 billion - it's more than 15 years in time overrun. So that's policy number one from Peter Dutton and the Liberals. And then policy number two is this supermarket thing, which is dead on arrival. Split their party room because it's dumb policy, and they've sort of hodgepodged something that the Greens put together with something that the Nationals put together, and it's just talking points, not a fair dinkum policy. The truth in opposition, as we discovered, is you've got to do the hard yards of policy development, working with experts to deliver stuff that actually works.


MACCA: From experts to exports. Mate, this live sheep exports by sea ban. This one's been across the news headlines. New South Wales farmers a little bit worried about this one, although the government saying it's a good thing.


AYERS: Well, they shouldn't be worried. This is an industry that is now confined to Western Australia. It has shrunk from being under about $300 million a year to around the $70 million year figure. So, it's less than 2% of Western Australia's agricultural output. It's diminishing in size because the market overseas is getting smaller for live exports. The market for chilled meat, boxed exports is getting bigger. So, meat processed onshore here. And of course, there's no community support for live exports. We took it to two elections. We think it's in the best interests of country towns, and we think it's in the best interest of Australian agriculture. But even the recent polling in Western Australia itself shows that 70% of people in Western Australia support closing the market for live sheep by sea exports. There's nothing for the rest of the farming community to worry about here because the interests of sheep farmers in the eastern states and across the country is absolutely about wool and meat processed onshore here in Australia. We need to make sure we're investing in meat processing abattoir capability in those regions, and there's $107 million package from the Federal Government for Western Australia to support industry development and meat processing there in Western Australia. That's the direction the sector's got to go in. It got no support from the previous government, and the industry's disappeared through the floor over that time. We're going to provide $107 million but provide some certainty by, you know, finally reaching the conclusion that we can't continue this. Can't continue sea trade for sheep exports. Every effort to reform the sector's failed, and we've just got to get on with it.


MACCA: And on the subject of manufacturing, Future Made in Australia bill, what does this actually mean for our region?


AYERS: What it means is a couple of things. Firstly, Future Made in Australia is the biggest pro-manufacturing package in our history. Alongside the National Reconstruction Fund, $15 billion, there's $23 billion there for production tax credits and incentives to deliver manufacturing here in Australia. Manufacturing happens in our outer suburbs and our regions. It doesn't happen in our inner cities and our CBD. So, there are benefits there for the Hunter, for the Illawarra, for regional New South Wales, more broadly, that's the first thing. Second thing is, we have to act in our national interest here. What's driving us to this set of decisions which will deliver good jobs in the bush and in the regions is, firstly, making sure that Australia is front and center when it comes to net zero investment. Ninety seven percent of our trading partners aren't going to be demanding net zero goods and services. That's the truth. We can't let that go.


Secondly, we're going to make sure that we capture where Australia has a current or future comparative advantage, not just leave it to the market, but have government in the supporting industry to invest.


And thirdly, where there's a national security or economic resilience driver, we are going to make sure we secure our position. We are a country with enormous capability below the ground in terms of our critical minerals and our resources more broadly. Above the ground, the best wind and solar and space reserves, you know, the enormous size of our continent. And our people; smart, capable, adaptive, resilient.


But the truth is, if we don't act as a government, this is what the Future Made in Australia agenda is all about, the opportunity will pass us by and it won't come again. This is a train that leaves the station only once, and the Albanese Government is determined to make sure that we provide the certainty and direction for the investment community and the big manufacturers to make sure that investments happen in Australia and that we're driving good jobs and investment that come out of that. That's what this is all about. The national interest, we are determined to deliver this package through the Parliament. We're determined to campaign about it in regional communities, uphill and down dale to convince people that Australia has a manufacturing future and we should be confident about our future. We're just going to have to work hard and fight hard for it.


MACCA: Can you ever see, I guess, the comebacks of companies like Holden and Ford, Tim? You know, obviously that had solved a lot of problems as far as the workforce is concerned, and manufacturing here locally.


AYERS: Well, it does strike me that there's a contrast the auto industry left, I think, in 2014 when Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey basically told them, you know, get lost, right? Imagine if we had an auto industry here. Forty thousand people lost their jobs. That's what happened. Forty thousand people - the big manufacturers and in the supply chains lost their jobs. But imagine if we had the capability to build vehicles, hybrids and electric vehicles, that the world is now demanding. There is enormous demand, and we could be delivering that here. We would be one step ahead instead. Because of that decision to force the auto industry offshore, we're one step behind. That means in areas where we can deliver comparative advantage, like battery manufacturing and contributing into battery manufacturing supply chain. We make all of the critical minerals that are required for battery production. Lithium, for example, if we just export lithium ore overseas, largely to one jurisdiction, to China, we capture about half a percent of the value of the ultimate value of the lithium value chain. If we can process lithium ore, if we can contribute to global supply chains at a higher level, that creates good jobs in Australia, means we capture more jobs and investment and opportunity here, and it secures our economic resilience and our supply chain resilience as well. It knits us into the region in a way that makes Australia more resilient and more secure for the future.


MACCA: Good on you, Tim. Thank you very much, mate for the chat, and we'll catch up with you on a little bit more stuff, including that bonds or airlines collapse. We might talk to you about it next week in the safe and clear skies commission that TWU are currently demanding.


AYERS: I’d be very, very keen to talk about that. I should say to you, on Friday night, I went and saw a Tamworth boy Andy Golledge at a big country music show in Sydney. He was fantastic. He's a real son of Tamworth. It's country music Australians can believe in. It was fantastic. I loved every second of it. And if we get an opportunity to play one of his songs on one of our interviews, that'd be great.


MACCA: We'll get one on now.