ABC Wide Bay Bundaberg with David Dowsett

16 November 2023


David Dowsett (Host): But on the Fraser coast, manufacturing has been on the rise in recent years and it appears the trend is set to continue. Just moments ago, Senator Tim Ayres spoke at the AusRAIL conference reference in Sydney and joins us live. Tim Ayres, good morning.


Assistant Minister Tim Ayres: G’day, it’s terrific to be on the show.


David Dowsett: Senator, what's the big announcement?


Assistant Minister Tim Ayres: Well, as part of our overall package of measures, the Albanese government determined to bring manufacturing back. We have today at the Australasian Rail Convention, 6000 delegates here from across the rail sector, announced our National Rail Procurement Strategy, our National Rail Manufacturing Strategy in concert with the states and territories, the Albanese government working to make sure that future rail rolling stock procurements are delivered here in places like Maryborough, Newcastle, Dandenong, Ballarat. You know, these regional centres, they don't make trains in the CBDs of our big capital cities, they make trains in our outer suburbs and in our regional centres. Maryborough has got such a proud history as an Australian rail manufacturing centre. This is going to mean more investment, more jobs. Commonwealth working together with the states to make sure we bring rail manufacturing home.


David Dowsett: So, how will this impact manufacturing in our region?


Assistant Minister Tim Ayres: Well, I was there just a few months ago with Bruce Saunders, the local member and Queensland Assistant Minister for Train Manufacturing, he was making the case to me for the rail capability that exists there now. Now, the problem in rail has been that you've got these uneven procurement cycles around the country. State governments buying rail contracts at different times means that firms disinvest. The capability shrinks rather than grows. We are determined to get all of the states and territories on the same page. We've also seen what's happened in Queensland and NSW. Queensland with Campbell Newman offshored rail contracts to countries overseas. In NSW, Gladys Berejiklian and the last Liberal government offshored billions of dollars worth of rail contracts offshore. That meant we lost thousands of jobs, we lost hundreds and hundreds of apprenticeships and engineering cadetship opportunities, but also business disinvested, and we lost capability. Well, we are determined to get the states and territories working together on a common platform for train procurement. So, the head contractors and the SMEs, engineering SMEs in the business, can make long term decisions about investment and employment that'll bring more jobs to our suburbs and regions.


David Dowsett: Other regional communities, including Newcastle and Ballarat, are impacted as well. So, how do we make sure that Queensland is fairly represented in the delivery of this plan?


Assistant Minister Tim Ayres: Well, there's two things that are going to make a difference here. One is you've got a government there that is committed to rail manufacturing. Your local member, Bruce, he is a fierce advocate for Queensland rail manufacturing. I expect to keep hearing from him about the opportunities for Queensland rail manufacturing here. So, we're going to have state governments that are fighting for their corner, but we want to see coordination, and that means that we're going to be able to, not just onshore the manufacturing, but we'll be able to lower costs for the state government so it makes it more durable and sustainable and we'll be able to develop the expertise and the design capability to design Australian trains for the future. That means if we've got the scale, if we've got the quality, if we've got the workforce in regions like Maryborough, we can make sure that we're grabbing hold of freight contracts as well as passenger contracts, that we get into global supply chains at the right end, that is, Australia exporting components offshore rather than being at the end of global supply chains. There is enormous opportunity here. We're determined to fight for the future of rail manufacturing. We're deadly serious about it. We've allocated the resources that are required, and we've got a credible plan that's not just something we've developed in an office, that's been developed with industry and with the states and territories where we've got a cooperative approach. We're all going to work together.


David Dowsett: As we speak, though, a review of 82 federal infrastructure projects means that we're actually being stripped of funding. So, how does that balance with this?


Assistant Minister Tim Ayres: Well, the announcements that are going to be made today will be made later, so there's complete clarity about this. The trick with infrastructure, and I think our National Rail Manufacturing Plan shows it, is that you're making investments that require delivery, not just press releases and announcements, but cooperative endeavour to make sure that projects are deliverable. What this review has showed is that there's already a $33 billion blowout in cost. More than $10 billion of that is for projects that haven't even started yet. So, these are just announcements. Now, we are a government that is all about building infrastructure, not just announcing infrastructure and we will work collaboratively with the states and territories to make sure that this gets done. Now, I know the last government was all about the announcements. I remember when Barnaby Joyce and Tony Abbott announced that they would build 100 dams for regional NSW. Well, they built two. They announced a hundred and they built two. If they built all the dams that Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce said they would build, the sea level would be lower. And the vision was so grand, the delivery zero. This government, we've been open with people, open with the private sector, open with the states and territories, that we were going to get fair dinkum about this infrastructure review, we've taken time to do it, indeed, a little bit of extra time to make sure that we get this right. And you're not universally popular when you announce a reduction in spending, but what people can be confident about is that this work will get done.


David Dowsett: So, can we expect to see improved rail services in Queensland?


Assistant Minister Tim Ayres: Well, you're certainly going to see improved rail services. There's certainly an ongoing commitment to rail infrastructure. And in terms of my little part of the world, that is building more trains in Australia, what we've got here is a plan between the states and the territories and the Commonwealth, and engaging the private sector and the unions, that will deliver more trains made here, trains that are more cost effective and trains that are better designed for Australian conditions so that we get more people and freight on trains, lower our transport emissions to get a good outcome for the community overall. And places like Maryborough are going to be the heart of that vision and that future.


David Dowsett: Tim Ayres, thanks for your time this morning.


Assistant Minister Tim Ayres: Good on you, mate. Catch you next time.


David Dowsett: Senator Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Trade on ABC Wide Bay.