Outback Radio 2WEB with Rod Corfe

28 May 2024

Joining us, the Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing, Senator for New South Wales, Tim Ayres. Good morning.

SENATOR TIM AYRES: G’day, Corfe. Nothing like the music on 2WEB. I see you’ve got a bit of Troy Cassar-Daley. You got to get that new album on. It's fantastic.

CORFE: Certainly is, him and his daughter as well. She's just fantastic.

SENATOR AYRES: Wonderful. That new single “Some Days”. Really good. Really good.

CORFE: Play it for you next fortnight.


CORFE: All right. Are you going to make your way out to Bourke for the Bourke show on Saturday?

SENATOR AYRES: I see it's on. I really wish I was. There's nothing like a country show. I remember I used to work on the show at Glenn Innes when I was growing up there. Nothing like it. I won't be out for this. I understand you've got a little bit of rain scheduled on Friday too, just to add a little bit of a degree of difficulty for the show. I'm sure it'll go really well. It's a fantastic opportunity for the community to get together.

CORFE: Certainly is and everyone is looking forward to it. Hopefully there'll be a drop of rain and it won't be too muddy, and everything will go ahead as scheduled. You've been talking about rail manufacturing in this country for a long while and a bit of an announcement...

SENATOR AYRES: It's the next step along the way. We're implementing this National Rail Manufacturing Plan, which is really about using the capability in the Commonwealth Government to support the states to make better procurement decisions and buy trains locally. Remember the last government in New South Wales; O'Farrell, Baird, Berejiklian government's offshored billions of dollars’ worth of trains overseas. And Gladys Berejiklian said we don't do a good job of making trains in Australia. And they did it on a cost basis. I mean, the truth is nothing could be further from the truth. We have excellent train manufacturing capability here in Australia, and the trains that they offshored all ended up being delivered over budget, over time, and with significant quality defects that Australian rail manufacturers have been busy fixing up for the Sydney train network. So, the National Rail Manufacturing Plan is all about working with the states to establish a consistent pipeline of rail manufacturing work so that local firms can tender in the big companies, but also all the little companies in the supply chain, and that means good jobs, particularly in our big train making regions like the Hunter Valley, and Western Sydney. But also it means there's opportunities for the smaller firms out in the bush to tender in. And it means if there's young people there in school who are interested in engineering, interested in the trades, there's going to be more jobs for them. That's what this is all about. And we took another step along the way this week.

CORFE: Do we have the people that want to get into this sort of work? And do they have the skills? And do we have the education system to give them the skills?

SENATOR AYRES: Well, we've got the Future Made in Australia agenda, which is all about bringing manufacturing back to Australia. That means that there's going to be jobs for young people in trades and engineering, which are going to be very fulfilling jobs, jobs you can make a career out of; working in our energy system to decarbonize our steelmaking processes, to do value adding using our vast reservoirs of solar and wind and renewable energy to go up the value chain in minerals processing, onshore in Australia, rather than just exporting product overseas. These are very exciting job opportunities. Almost all of them in regional Australia. We're not going to be building new factories in the inner cities of our suburbs, you know, our big cities. We're going to be building factories in our industrial regions, and in our outer suburbs, and that means there's opportunities for people who want to work and stay in regional Australia, for good jobs, good careers, you know, jobs that a family can rely upon. This is the biggest pro-manufacturing package in Australian history. And if you're a young person at school, you know, take a second look at the trades. Take a second look at engineering because there's going to be plenty of good jobs there, very fulfilling jobs building Australia for the future.

CORFE: And a Future Made in Australia. What's that logo mean?

SENATOR AYRES: Well, what it is, is a very significant incentive package that has been tailored to make sure that we're using our comparative advantage to deliver manufacturing opportunities here. Instead of being a dig and ship economy, where we're sending Australian product overseas, to be manufactured and processed there, to make sure that we're grabbing the opportunities to go up the value chain here, to critical minerals processing. We have all of the critical minerals that the world requires, 97% of our trading partners requiring critical minerals for their own net zero transitions. Let's use this historical opportunity, a once in a generation opportunity, to rebuild Australian manufacturing. That's what the package is all about. It means in a large part, tax credits for businesses that manufacture here in Australia. And that is, I can tell you from my work, as the Assistant Minister for Trade, meeting with the investment community around the world, and with energy and manufacturing firms, that is turning heads and focusing their energy and their interests on Australian opportunities.

CORFE: What's the $35 million boost to Australia's national aerial capability?

SENATOR AYRES: Well, we want to, in a systematic way, make sure that rather than what's happened in an ad hoc process, driven by the interests of private companies, we want to make sure that there is a systematic map of our critical minerals, of our energy reserves, of our groundwater to make sure, again, this is about making sure there is a stable platform for investment, that firms can see where the opportunities lie, and then work with local communities to deliver them. This is one of… the Future Made in Australia agenda has a whole series of measures. Some of it are big incentives, some of it are measures like this, which is about making sure there is really good information out there that has not existed before, so that firms can make good investment decisions in new jobs and new capability. Some of it is about having a one stop shop. So that instead of having a really complicated process for big nation building projects, that we're getting on the ground and working with them to make sure that they've got a clear pathway to investment in new factories, new jobs and new industrial capability.

CORFE: We're hearing from Senator Tim Ayres. The opposition David Littleproud, leader of the Nationals says the future of the Mobile Black Spot Program is not going to be supported by the federal government.

SENATOR AYRES: Quite the contrary. We have invested. There's a couple of line items in the budget. There are no cuts to the Mobile Black Spot Program. But the issues about connectivity in the bush are much bigger than mobile black spots, they are very important. That's why we've got the $1.1 billion Better Connectivity Plan. And there are a series of programs that are relevant for your listeners, that have been funded by that and already delivered upon. So, around seven of the Mobile Black Spot Programs, funded under that line item has been issued. The Regional Connectivity Program, round three has gone out. Telecommunications Disaster Resilience Program, round one of the On-farm Connectivity Programs, the Broadcasting Resilience Program, critical for you and your listeners, and extension to the regional tech hub services, all of these programs going full tilt. I'm advised that round eight of the Mobile Black Spot Program will be opened later this year. So, there is more to come in the Mobile Black Spot Program. But of course, there's more work to do. We know that these issues are critical and complex, we're a big country, country people need reliable telecommunication services. And so, while we say not only have we maintained funding in these areas, we've increased funding. But also, we're listening carefully to country communities about what needs to be done to deliver for households, but also to make sure that there's a stable platform for businesses to invest in. We understand the role that telecommunications play in creating good jobs, particularly in country towns.

CORFE: And in regards to financial services, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee recently released their report into basically banking services branches being closed right across the country, some close to 600 branches already closed in places. What's the Labor government going to do in regard to this?

SENATOR AYRES: We’ll pay close attention to the recommendations of the committee. I'm listening carefully to my Labor colleagues on the committee who are not content that some of the recommendations might not lead to further bank branch closures themselves. So, we're going to weigh up those very carefully. Sometimes something seems like a good idea, you adopt it, it has a perverse effect and means that there's disinvestment, not investment in branch capability. So, we're looking at that carefully. I do know that a number of the major banks have made a decision to pause branch closures. And the government's approach here is all about making sure that cash is always available for Australians when they require it. We're looking at reducing red tape for banks, through the financial sector regulations, and working with the ACCC to get a better deal for our customers. But I don't want to whitewash this issue for you, Corfe. It is very tough in some country towns. Australia Post plays a critical role providing cash and banking services for customers. But it's not the same as having a bank branch in your town and I know this is causing significant dislocation, there are no perfect answers. But we're determined to do what the federal government can do to support Australians having access to banking services and access to cash.

CORFE: Senator, always good to hear from you.

SENATOR AYRES: Good on you, mate. Talk to you soon.