04 July 2024


SCOTT LEVI, HOST: It's one of the most recognisable logos, the green and gold Made in Australia logo. Do you buy when you see it? Does it influence your choice of purchase? I must say it does for me. I sort of see it "oh, that's good". It's not as if you go searching through stores and supermarkets looking for it, but when you do see it, it makes you feel good, doesn't it? Whether it has an impact, I don't know. We'd need to look at the research there. It's been around since 1986 and apparently it was at the request of the then Prime Minister, the late Bob Hawke. I didn't know that. While most Aussies agree that it's a good thing to buy Australian made, there's a fresh focus on what kind of government assistance should support Australian manufacturing to make sure, I guess, that we get the best bang for our buck if people are saying this is Australian made. Tim Ayres is the Assistant Trade Minister talking about the new Future Made in Australia legislation that's just been unveiled as of yesterday. Good morning, Mr Ayres.

SENATOR TIM AYRES, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TRADE AND MANUFACTURING: Good morning. It's good to be with you and your listeners.


LEVI: Yes, it’s good to talk to you. We still have some good people here on the coast who make stuff.

AYRES: That's right, absolutely. Not only is there manufacturing at scale on the coast, a lot of your listeners are people who commute into Sydney manufacturing and engineering and up to the Hunter Valley as well. The Central Coast is a key part of the manufacturing infrastructure of the country.


LEVI: Now they're saying - you're saying - that the law will mandate that all money spent under the government's signature Future Made in Australia policy will have to back projects that can show they will benefit local communities and workers. What about making sure they're also good products?

AYRES: Well, that is really important. This is the largest pro-manufacturing package in Australian history. It's a very substantial package and is designed as in the global trading environment. Our partners are adopting similar approaches. So, you've seen what's happened in the United States. The Inflation Reduction Act, they've got - the President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act - very significant subsidies and supports for American manufacturing. And that's seen a revival of US manufacturing. In Australia we are going to adopt a similar approach. The Albanese Government's Future Made in Australia package is all about making sure that we're rebuilding Australian manufacturing capability where we need it.


LEVI: Is there a risk, though, that products may cost more and not be as good as other countries? I'm thinking of when all the people in Russia were made to buy Ladas and they were the worst car in history.


AYRES: Well, it's certainly not that kind of manufacturing strategy. Let me just give you the why first. We are in a position where 97 per cent of our trading partners have net zero targets themselves. So, in addition to our own net zero objectives, as we're fixing a new energy system for the future - low-cost energy from renewables and storage. Our trading partners, 97 per cent of them, are doing exactly the same thing. And that means that our production systems need to meet their demands. The world is moving fast, and it's not waiting for Australia to, you know, this moment could pass us by. We have to adjust our industrial capability to suit that imperative. And we actually have enormous natural advantages here. We have all of our resources under the ground, our minerals and all of our resources above the ground. Our solar and our wind, best resources in the world, our giant continent, and of course, our people. Our people with skills and capability and resilience. But what we need is a government that is prepared to act in the national interest and make sure that Australian manufacturing in these areas is competitive. That's why we're providing such a large package of production tax credits for industries that fit our National Interest Framework.


LEVI: Will this go up and down with the dollar though? We see a low dollar at the moment compared to some of the major currencies, is that to our advantage for manufacturing at home?


AYRES: Well, it is to our advantage, but, of course, it's not something that you can rely upon. So, let me give you an example of the kind of area that this policy will impact. In green metals, in the critical minerals area, and for iron ore, right now, what Australia does is - we are world experts at digging ore out of the ground and shipping it offshore. Our mining industry is cutting edge. The mining services, mining engineering, absolutely fantastic. What we don't do as well in Australia is value add, you know, is move up the value chain. So, in lithium, for example, critical for future batteries, for what is a fast growing global car battery industry, let alone what's happening in storage more broadly in global energy systems. If we step up the value chain, that has enormous benefits for our economy. That means that we're capturing more value here in Australia. And what that ultimately means is investment and good jobs in our outer suburbs and our regions. Same goes for iron ore, which we currently export mostly to China. That's fine, we will continue to do that. But if we can move up the value chain into green iron and green steel, that is good quality jobs, engineering and apprenticeships, all in our regions and in our suburbs.


LEVI: Mr Ayres, thanks for joining us this morning.


AYRES: Good on you. Thank you.