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Doorstop, Toowoomba

4 December 2020

Interviewer: 
Doorstop

Subject: Manufacturing Modernisation Fund, medical research

E&OE

Interview discusses Manufacturing Modernisation Fund and medical research

Garth Hamilton: All right. Thank you all for coming today. It's great to be here. I know it’s a little bit torturous on a hot day to come to an ice-cream factory and not be able to dive in. But thank you very much for being here, great to be here at Pixie Ice Cream, the home of the famous Home Ice-cream brand. We’ve got Brett Mullen, the CEO, who’s just been showing us around. And we'd like to welcome a big Toowoomba welcome to Minister Andrews, here today to talk about something that’s very important in our electorate. We have a wonderful- everyone talks about our wonderful agriculture industry, our wonderful mining sector, defence, but we have a fantastic manufacturing industry here in Toowoomba, it’s wonderful to have the Minister here to talk to you about it. Karen Andrews.

Karen Andrews: Well, thank you very much, Garth, and it’s an absolute pleasure to be here today with the Member for Groom the day after he was sworn in in Canberra. And I know that he is going to do an absolutely fantastic job representing the Groom electorate, and we have been so looking forward to having him in Canberra, particularly me who’s an engineer and of course Garth is an engineer. So Garth, go the engineers.

Look, it’s a pleasure to be here at Pixie Ice Creams today to officially launch the second round of the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund. Now, the Government is absolutely committed to growing Australian manufacturing. During the budget- as part of the budget announcement, we made it very clear that manufacturing was a priority area for us and we named six National Manufacturing Priorities. And of course, being here at Pixie Ice Creams, it is part of the food sector and food and beverage of one of our National Manufacturing Priorities.

Now, the funds that we’re opening today, the second round of the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund, is specifically targeted to those manufacturers who are working and producing goods in our six National Manufacturing Priority areas. Grant funding does open today and will remain open until the 21st of January is for $100,000 to $1 million, but the co-contribution that we’re asking for from manufactures is three to one. So it’s clear that this is not a handout from Government but we are prepared to put our money in it to support those manufacturers who are prepared to invest in themselves.

We want Australian manufacturers to be able to scale up and we are committed to supporting them along the way. So, under this grant funding, we are looking for those manufacturers working in the priority areas who are looking to upgrade, specifically their technology. We want to make sure the science and technologies are seen and demonstrated very clearly as the enablers of manufacturing. So, manufacturers in our six priority areas are invited to put in applications now for grant funding between $100,000 and a $1 million, focusing on how they’re going to operate their technology software and software upgrades is part of this announcement as well too.

Now, given that I’m here at Pixie and there’s a fantastic story here in terms of the supply chain. The milk comes from nearby in the Darling Downs, but they have suffered during COVID as well when they had to look for alternative supply chains. So we have the CEO here, Brett Mullen, and I’d like to invite Brett to say a few words about the Pixie journey.

Brett Mullen: Welcome everyone. It’s been a pleasure having our Minister, Karen Andrews, here to explain to us the government’s plans for manufacturing and stuff. We, we’re excited about it, it has been an absolute pleasure to hear what she’s been talking about and we’re looking for those innovations as well in our factory – it’s been a family business since 1959 - and we launched in an innovative way.

Keith Reisinger actually was the very leader on the team of what we’re going to do for ice cream in the future and he was very innovative in the way that he thought. In 1988 we did the same thing and launched Home Ice Cream, which is our home owned retail brand - it services the streets of your local community.

Again, it has been exciting to hear what the Government is doing. We're looking forward to the opportunities that we might be able to participate in and thank you so much for your time. Thank you for visiting us. Thank you.

Question: Obviously, this is very iconic in the Darling Downs brand here. How have you guys been going during the COVID? Been managing to kind of keep production up [indistinct]…?

Brett Mullen: Thank you for that question. We have obviously been challenged, like every business in over the last nine months of COVID, and we have been [indistinct] of all the difficulties in our supply chains around the world. It’s actually been very good for us as the business in the sense that we’ve had to be very agile in what we do. And that’s of course simplified our processes, looking at new innovative ways to do that, and work towards what we can do better in the future and obviously work with our staff - and we've got an amazing team here that supported us through this, and obviously our community support us through our retail buying and stuff like that.

Question: Obviously, home delivery of food was very popular during COVID, how’s the home delivery side of things been going?

Brett Mullen: It’s been going very well. We’ve actually seen a growth in that industry in this trying time. It’s been wonderful, the support the community has given us over that time. Obviously, we all stayed home with our home offices and we saw our sales go up in that time. It has been good.

Question: And do you have hopes that you can see manufacturing like your factory expand on the Darling Downs? Is there a growth opportunity here for our region?

Brett Mullen: Absolutely. Darling Downs is known for its manufacturing industry and we hope and want to be a part of that growth, and we’re looking forward to the opportunities available, especially under the funding of the new Modernisation Fund round two.

Question: Thank you. Minister, regional Queensland especially has been really hit on this manufacturing [indistinct] since COVID began. Is there an opportunity for the Government to support [indistinct]…?

Karen Andrews: There’s enormous opportunities in regional Australia for manufacturing and that’s why we’ve chosen Toowoomba today to announce the opening of round two of the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund. So, if I could use an example, an example here of Toowoomba nearby you have the airport, you actually have a number of supply chains here, specifically dairy products that are coming in directly from the Darling Downs. But we were also able to look at what else we can do to support businesses along the way as manufacturers. So, what is good to understand is that, you know, clearly there’s about 150 employees here on the Pixie site, but there are many other people who are beneficiaries through the supply chain work into industry here. So, clearly, what we want to do is make sure that we are growing Australian manufacturing, and rural and regional Australia is going to be very important.

Question: Is this new money?

Karen Andrews: Yes, it is. So this was announced as part of the Budget. So we announced a $1.5 billion Manufacturing Modernisation Strategy and this was one of many parts of that fund - but there are more parts that are underway now. So, this is just one of the key parts of the strategy. We are looking at major streams, with collaboration, which is business to business collaboration with the commercialisation of new ideas in supporting Australian manufacturers to be part of international supply chains, and importantly, looking at our sovereign capability, our supply chain resilience, which will be a key part of it.

Now we did have the example here with Pixie during COVID, when they had difficulty, for example, in securing supplies of nuts. So they have now located a new supplier of that in New South Wales, and their intention is to maintain relationships with suppliers here in Australia so that they can really shore up their work, in making sure that they’re supporting Australian businesses.

Question: You require businesses to come up with three times the amount of funding that the Government would be providing, how many businesses do you think will actually have that kind of money to invest at the moment, considering the current recession?

Karen Andrews: There are many businesses that are actively looking to invest, specifically our manufacturers. And let’s be clear – there is a groundswell of support for Australian grown and Australian made. So many businesses have done very well during COVID, as Australians have turned to Aussie products. So there are many manufacturers who are looking at how they can upgrade their equipment, upgrade their technology. They’re willing to invest, and the money that the Federal Government’s going to be able to provide to support them will make the difference between that project either going ahead or not proceeding.

Question: About the criteria you have in place, how are you going to make sure the projects that get funding are energy efficient and create lower emissions?

Karen Andrews: So, I have made it very clear to my department that there needs to be a very robust assessment of projects that put in submissions. The criteria is available, the guidelines are available at business.gov.au and we will be adhering to published guidelines. Now clearly, when we talk about clean energy, that is a national manufacturing priority. And as we look at how we’re going to collaborate, how we’re going to make sure that Australian manufacturing builds scale, builds resilience, builds competitiveness. We will work very closely with those who are part of the manufacturing of clean energy, whether that’s through the production of batteries or whether it’s looking at other technologies that can be used as part of our manufacturing community in Australia. So clean energy is front and centre in terms of the Government’s outlook.

Question: And while we’ve got you here, do you think it was appropriate for the Prime Minister and Treasurer to take a taxpayer funded flight to Sydney last year, so they could attend Lachlan Murdoch’s Christmas party?

Karen Andrews: Look, I don’t have any information in relation to that particular activity, if and when it occurred. So I suggest you put that question to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer.

Question: Minister, I’ve got some questions out of Melbourne about concerns that medical research funding is drying up. Why hasn’t the Federal Government increased medical research funding in the past year?

Karen Andrews: Well, there has been $1.28 billion go specifically toward medical research. So the Health Minister Greg Hunt has responsibility for Medical Research. However, what I will say, is that we have recognised that medical products are one of the things that Australia does particularly well, we demonstrated that during COVID. So, we have named medical products as one of our six national manufacturing priorities.

So what we will see, over the coming couple of years in particular, is growth in medical products for manufacturing purposes. We do have a very strong research sector, we have made some changes to the research and development tax incentive, and that is designed to boost business investment in research and development. Now, in medical technologies, medical products, we actually do do extremely well, but clearly, we want businesses to do more as well - we want them to engage in research and development.

And in terms of vaccines, there has been a significant amount of money that has been committed by the Federal Government to make sure that we are in a good position, as and when the vaccines become available, and of course, that is a significant medical funding element.

Question: Is that funding actually being – medical research I mean – being diverted to [indistinct] COVID?

Karen Andrews: Sorry, I missed the start of that…

Question: So is there- that medical research funding being diverted to COVID research at the moment?

Karen Andrews: Some of the money that is assigned for medical research, some of the recipients might well have looked at how they can wisely use that in the circumstances in which we find ourselves with COVID, but there is no Government strategy to divert funding specifically for research. So the other areas of research that we undertake here in Australia are still important, and have been continuing even during COVID. So, COVID is a distinct issue we have dealt with, but medical research and the scientific research has been continuing and will continue.

Question: So what would you say to the hundreds of scientists who are likely to have lost their jobs by Christmas?

Karen Andrews: Well, unfortunately Australia has suffered through the global pandemic, and there have been job losses. So we have done all you can, as a government, to support not only individuals but also businesses as they face these really difficult times. So there has been support through JobSeeker, there has been support through JobKeeper. What we, as a government, are doing is looking forward to building the economy over the coming years, and what we want to see is people who have lost their jobs being re-employed as soon as we possibly can.

So, for the Australian scientists, I would say firstly thank you for your work, your work is so well regarded, and as a government, we will be doing all that we can to assist. But, certainly scientific research is front and centre of our agenda.

ENDS