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Speech: industry and manufacturing

In respect of the ministerial statement on industry and manufacturing, I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

In her ministerial statement on industry and manufacturing, the industry minister stated, 'For too long successive governments have tinkered at the edges when it comes to manufacturing policy.' I agree, but it's a real shame that this government plans to keep tinkering around the edges, persisting with its delusion that corporate investment will be enough to create a sustainable energy sector and its refusal to take responsibility for all of our welfare by properly investing in the industries of the future. It's a shame this government continues to be captured by its donors in the fossil fuel industry, jeopardising the future of our young people, our economy and the planet. Either this government has no vision for the future or it can see the future its irresponsible policies will create and it simply does not care. I'm not sure which one is worse.

With the welcome end to the Trump administration, Australia will be even more of an outlier in the fight against global warming and the climate catastrophe. If we do not act now, we will not only be condemning humanity and the planet to the terrible consequences of the climate crisis but also be facing increasing hostility on the global stage for our irresponsibility, and our trade relationships will inevitably deteriorate. We should not be climate rogues when we are so well placed to lead the renewable energy revolution. Australians are not climate deniers, and our leaders need to wake up to that fact. An industry and manufacturing plan that does not address climate is no plan at all. A gas-led recovery is no recovery at all.

This government sees our beautiful environment as a quarry. It sees our workers as mere cogs in the wheel of the economy. This government is basing its industry and manufacturing policy on backward principles. It thinks that the economy and the society we live in should be designed according to what's good for big business and financial markets, not people, not communities and not nature. It thinks deregulation, corporate welfare, tax cuts for big business, the wise invisible hand of the private market and 19th century fossil fuel sources are what will take us forward. Well, they will not. They will do quite the opposite, and we won't let you take us backwards. Encouraging unsustainable industries now means locking in an even deeper climate catastrophe.

So what would a real manufacturing plan look like? A really future focused industry and manufacturing policy would be based on principles of collectivism, environmental justice and social justice, where workers have agency and the ability to have a real say and control in their workplaces and enjoy the value of the goods they produce, and where communities lead the planning for their renewable energy future to transition their local economies to suit their needs and make the most of their strengths and local expertise.

As an engineer, I have been trained to solve problems. I know that Australian manufacturing can help us bring a clean, jobs-rich future. The prospect of remaking manufacturing using innovation and advanced technology whilst simultaneously addressing sustainability is quite exhilarating. The possibilities are endless, and we certainly have the expertise to make this happen, but what has really been lacking is political will. There is no shortage of sustainable projects that the government could directly invest in that will help us create the safer sustainable world we want to build for future generations. Rather than exporting climate-destroying fossil fuels, we should be exporting our sunlight and wind as green hydrogen or zero-emissions processed minerals and resources. We should implement a jobs-rich manufacturing revival by investing billions in green industry programs to support the shift to clean green manufacturing. We should modernise and expand Australian manufacturing by promoting manufacturing processes of the future, including green steel hubs in Queensland and New South Wales, as well as green aluminium.

The future of work is in diverse models of ethical, cooperative workplaces. Researchers from Western Sydney University, Newcastle university and my previous uni, UNSW, are exploring the exciting opportunities presented by social enterprises and microfactories. By supporting alternative models of production and workplace organisation, we could enrich our industrial and manufacturing landscape. We should put in place new government procurement policies that prioritise Australian products in Commonwealth funded projects and ensure that our supply chains are sustainable and ethical. We could invest in renewables research and development and set a course to become a renewables powerhouse and attract 21st century industries like data centres, battery and carbon-fibre manufacturing. As fossil fuel production ends—and we know that it will—we can create enough good, secure, well-paid jobs to more than cover for those that will be lost. A just transition for workers in dying industries is essential, and the government is abrogating its responsibility to these workers by not planning and not investing in the wholesale shift to sustainable energy.

When I imagine the world that we could build together, I see a place where country is respected and cherished, where we care for each other, and where our TAFE and uni is fee free so that we can nurture, encourage and champion the brilliant ideas of our people to fruition.


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