21 March 2023

Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Assistant Minister for Manufacturing: I just want to address some of the issues that the Government is dealing with in this sitting fortnight. First of all, on the National Reconstruction Fund. This is the biggest peacetime investment in Australian industry, in our history. It is $15 billion designed to reindustrialise the Australian economy. That is jobs for our outer suburbs, our country towns, and our regions.

This is a fund that is designed to arrest the decline in Australian manufacturing capability. We are at less than 7 per cent of GDP in manufacturing. We are stone cold last in the OECD on manufacturing self-sufficiency. And as manufacturing jobs have declined, good jobs have gone offshore and flooded out of country towns and regional centres.

It beggars belief that the National Party is voting against this fund, turning their backs on blue-collar workers in country towns. And the other thing I've noticed about the National Reconstruction Fund and the approach of the Parliament around this has been that while I'm confident this fund will make its way through the Parliament, what is happening here is instead of some members of the crossbench and the Liberals and Nationals taking the task of reindustrialising the economy seriously, backing manufacturing, backing blue-collar jobs, what they are doing is attaching peripheral issues that were never envisaged to be part of this fund, rebuilding manufacturing, and attaching them to it. That is not fair dinkum. It is turning their backs on blue-collar workers and their jobs.

To say about the Safeguards Mechanism as well, this is fundamental for Australian industry and for the Government's climate package reforms. To say to the Greens political party; do not make the mistakes that were made in 2009 and 2010. This reform will significantly reduce Australian emissions. It is a significant part of the agenda. Fair enough, argue for more emissions reductions, but take this first step as a Parliament together to lay the foundations for future emissions reductions, to contribute to Australia's position, our leadership position now around the world, arguing for more emissions reductions at a global level, and give Australian industry the certainty to invest in the industry capability of the future. This is critical in emissions terms, it's critical in driving down energy costs and it's critical for blue-collar jobs.

The last thing I wanted to say was I've seen reports of this sleazy secret preference deal between Dom Perrottet and Peter Dutton's New South Wales Liberals and the New South Wales Greens political party, exchanging preferences in the Liberals versus Nationals contest in Port Macquarie for conservative voters being asked to preference the Greens in Newtown, Summer Hill and Balmain. It's a sleazy deal, it's unprecedented and voters in both those seats should repudiate it. And they should do that by putting voting one Labor for a fresh start for New South Wales with a Chris Minns Labor government.