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Interview with 4BC Breakfast with Neil Breen

1 October 2020

Neil Breen

Subject: Modern Manufacturing Strategy, Queensland border closures 


Neil Breen: Just as JobKeeper is being wound down, the Morrison Government's JobMaker plan is being cranked up. Today, some of the details are being unveiled with a $1.5 billion plan to transform Australia's manufacturing industry. We know we've let manufacturing slide; it's time to build it back up again. On the line is the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews. Good morning to you, Minister. 

Karen Andrews: Good morning, Neil. 

Neil Breen: Okay, so manufacturing is a bugbear of many in Australia, and we've let things slide over the years. Why are we now so enthusiastic to spend a lot of our money, taxpayer money to build it up again?

Karen Andrews: Well this is the road to recovery from COVID, quite frankly, because we have as a Government worked very hard to put in place the economic foundations that we need. We're working on industrial relations, we're working on trade, we're working on skills. This is the jobs package for the future. And with manufacturing, there is an enormous groundswell of support for Australia to make stuff. 

So what we have done as a Government is clearly identified where our strengths are and how we can maximise opportunity. So this is the plan for growth. This is going to be creating jobs for our kids and for our kids’ kids.

Neil Breen: Well what are our strengths? 

Karen Andrews: Are strengths are clearly, in the resources sector, particularly in resources technology, critical minerals processing is an emerging strength for us, food and beverage, we're very strong and in fact, 25 per cent of our manufacturing here in Australia is food related. So it's already a strong sector for us. 

But there are areas where we are showing an enormous amount of potential and there are areas that we need to make sure that we’re manufacturing for our own strategic benefits. And that includes things such as recycling, which the PM has said is a priority for us, clean energy and that actually fits very neatly with critical minerals processing because solar panels, for example, rely on critical minerals to be able to be produced. 

So there are opportunities to build those together. We already have strong capability in defence, space is an emerging sector, but one that we have very specific skills in and opportunities to further expand that. For example, partnering with NASA on the Moon to Mars program, but also looking at what we can do with remote operations, which is all space related. And of course, medical products where we've seen, particularly over the last few months that has come into its own here …

Neil Breen: [Interrupts] Medical products is a good one. It’s a winner.

Karen Andrews: Yeah. Absolutely. And it's very broad so that it picks up medicine, manufacturing, clearly, vaccine manufacturing. But it's also a whole range of other medical products. I mean, we saw what we were able to do with ventilators early on in the COVID crisis as well too. We have great skills in that area. It's where we can do a lot of work to grow that sector, to value add; it ties in with the research and development that we're doing. So in the medical sector, we are very strong so it's a great capability for us to expand.

Neil Breen: When I see these announcements from Government - and I think the public asks the question too. They see the headline $1.5 billion to be spent. How does spending our money benefit us in the end? Like what – is it getting a job for my next-door neighbour who's out of work? Is it helping me get a tax cut because there's more people working? What is the benefit for me to, like, so that money just doesn't go to an international conglomerate that gets to build a new factory and the Government paid for it?

Karen Andrews: Yes. And look, and they’re all fair questions. So what this package actually does is it deals with issues that we know have been a problem for us in the past. So it deals with our resilience. What do we need to make or to make sure that we have supply chains in place for in times of crisis? Our competitiveness - and a lot of that does come from the foundations, with energy costs, with industrial relations, with trade. And then the biggest single issue is - has been our inability to scale, to take our small businesses to medium-sized enterprises and then on to big businesses. 

So 90 per cent of our manufacturing businesses are small businesses. And quite frankly, the evidence shows that there is a greater chance that our medium enterprises will go back to being a small business then what they will to grow. So this is a real opportunity for us to build that scale. 

So we talk a lot about industry and researcher collaboration. This brings in the business to business collaboration, so we want businesses to be working together, looking at how they can bring small businesses with them into their supply chain but how they can maximise the growth to create the jobs now and for the future.

Neil Breen: I'm talking to Karen Andrews, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. She's also the member for McPherson, which runs from Miami to Coolangatta. The border closure has been a tough issue for you in your own electorate.

Karen Andrews: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It's just been horrendous for businesses on the Gold Coast, I would have to say. Many of them are doing it tough. And with the border closures being relaxed, that’s a positive but we need to make sure that everyone is focusing on how to live and work in the COVID environment. And the first reaction cannot be to shut down borders.

Neil Breen: The thing that is puzzling Queenslanders and people across Australia now is we've got two speeds; we've got to shut the borders and we can't have this happen, we can't let that happen. But we can talk to the AFL and have more than 30,000 people at the Gabba.

Karen Andrews: Yeah.

Neil Breen: That's what people are failing to understand. 

Karen Andrews: Well, it's inexplicable. You know, how can you have so many people coming in from the AFL in quasi quarantine when you've actually got businesses struggling, when they can't get people into their stores and their livelihood is being seriously impacted? Look, you know, I don't have a real problem with the AFL. It's a sport. Great, fantastic. 

Neil Breen: [Interrupts] But if it’s safe enough to have 30,000, let's have 30,000. But let's also say, okay, safe enough to allow people to come into Queensland.

Karen Andrews: Yep, absolutely. Absolutely. It is a huge inconsistency. And I actually think that Annastacia Palaszczuk has a lot of explaining to do.

Neil Breen: Righty-o. Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, a big spend being announced today, $1.5 billion plan for manufacturing in Australia. She's also the member for McPherson, which is on the Gold Coast. Thanks for joining us on 4BC Breakfast.

Karen Andrews: It’s a pleasure. Take care.