ABC AM with Sabra Lane

03 July 2024


SABRA LANE: Today the Federal Government will introduce its Future Made in Australia plan involving $23 billion to rebuild the manufacturing sector while creating regional jobs and reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It was a major policy from the recent budget. Under the plan, projects winning taxpayer support must show how they'll benefit local communities and jobs. The PM will be hoping it's a circuit breaker, forcing debate back onto this rather than dissenting Labor Senator Fatima Payman, who's been suspended from caucus for crossing the floor and talking about it. Senator Tim Ayres is the Assistant Manufacturing Minister. Tim Ayres, thanks for joining AM.


SENATOR TIM AYRES: G'day, Sabra. It's a very exciting week to be the Assistant Minister for Manufacturing in Australia.


LANE: You're sounding positive, but is this policy doomed to fail because the Opposition and the Greens say they're not willing to pass it?


AYRES: We'll work with parties across the Parliament to deliver this and we'll campaign for it right around Australia, in every regional community. This is the biggest pro-manufacturing package in Australian history. This is a week where we've had two focuses; one focus on the here and now cost of living relief for Australians; tax cuts for every wage earner, wage increases, energy bill relief. But secondly, a focus on the future shape of the Australian economy; delivering on our security and resilience, delivering on the renewable energy superpower capability of our economy and delivering on regional jobs.


LANE: Is the Government even trying just yet to negotiate with anyone in the Senate about getting this through? Are you trying to lay the groundwork yet or not?


AYRES: Well, this week, the legislation will be delivered into the House of Representatives, and we'll work through the Parliament over the course of the coming months. It brings together the Albanese Government's manufacturing strategy, as I said, the biggest pro-manufacturing package in our history. So, alongside, as you indicated, the $22.7 billion worth of support for; future manufacturing, production tax credits, the Future Made in Australia Innovation Fund, our Future Made in Australia sector plans, our National Reconstruction Fund ($15 billion). As you say, this is a very big package. It is going to shape the future economy of Australia and make sure that we capture the jobs of the future into our regions and outer suburbs.


LANE: Under the laws “decision makers will have to consider how projects that get support will create local jobs and support communities.” Ultimately, who is going to decide that? Will it be a bureaucrat, or will it be a Minister? And how will you guarantee that this is just not a pork barreling exercise?


AYRES: Well, it certainly won't be a pork barreling exercise. We've seen enough of the old-style grant schemes under the Morrison government. These projects will have to be either key to the net zero transformation of our economy (so, capturing those big investment opportunities here in Australia), or they will need to be where Australia could have a genuine comparative advantage in the future, or to deal with their economic or national security imperative. That's what the legislation's designed to do, to protect the interests of Australia for the future.


LANE: But ultimately, will it be a politician or a bureaucrat who makes the decision as to what gets the big tick?


AYRES: The focus of decision making here will either be in Treasury or, of course, some of the investment vehicles that the Government has here. So, the Export Finance Australia, the National Reconstruction Fund, that is where the decision making about some of these programs will be. But, of course, the National Interest Framework, just like the Foreign Investment Review Board does now, that will be the locus of decision making there.


LANE: If Mr. Trump wins the next US presidential election, what will that mean for this policy?


AYRES: We've seen a shift across the world in terms of the way that countries engage in trade. It has become a feature of statecraft, and Australia has, of course, seen its fair share of impediments placed in front of Australian exporters and we are determined to diversify our trade relationships. That isn't just about market diversification, although that's very important. It's also about diversifying the products and services that we offer the world and about making sure that we not only secure our supply chains but make the Australian economy more resilient for the future. We're in an uncertain or less certain world, Sabra. We can't afford complacency about our economic future. And that is one of the driving features, the driving imperatives, behind this piece of legislation and behind the Albanese Government's approach to manufacturing. We need to diversify the range of products and services that we're offering the world and go up the value chain to make sure that we're creating the jobs of the future and making Australia more economically resilient.


LANE: This is the Industry Minister's baby, Ed Husic. Is he out spruiking this this morning? Or are you, the Prime Minister and Treasurer, doing the heavy lifting on this to avoid awkward questions about Palestine and Senator Payman?


AYRES: I think every Minister who has been engaged in this, including Ed, will be out there spruiking this policy. It is a centerpiece for the Albanese government, this piece of work. As I said, a lot of the focus this week has been on the here and now, dealing with the cost of living pressures for ordinary Australian households but the second focus of this Government is about making sure that we're making the big changes for the long term to make the economy more resilient, to lift our national productivity, to make sure that we're creating the jobs of the future in the regions and suburbs.


LANE: Senator Tim Ayres, thanks for talking with AM this morning.


AYRES: Good to talk to you Sabra.