Speeches

Putting Australian Jobs and Industry First

October 21, 2021

[by video link] This COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. It's changed the way we live and will have a lasting impact on all of us. In particular, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of manufacturing to our nation. It's crucial that Australia eliminate weak supply chain links and nurture domestic production capacity. Before the pandemic, only five per cent of PPE used in Australia was made here because we didn't have the manufacturing capacity to meet demand. Ninety-five per cent of personal protective equipment used in Australia was imported. The Queensland Palaszczuk government reacted quickly, mobilising manufacturing to deliver PPE and COVID-19 related equipment for frontline health and essential workers. Local manufacturing businesses quickly pivoted, stepping up to the challenge, such as Belgotex at Acacia Ridge, one of Queensland's only textile manufacturers. They purchased special looms, upskilled their workforce and commenced making special-grade fabrics for local PPE production. The lightweight tight-weave fabric was used to make medical scrubs, uniforms, hospital linen, sheeting, privacy screens, reusable face masks and gowns for frontline health workers. Well done, Belgotex.

Also, AnteoTech at Eight Mile Plains recently launched its 15-minute COVID-19 rapid antigen test platform called EuGeni. This project has created five new highly skilled jobs and protected 20 existing jobs. EGR, a 46-year-old car accessories manufacturer in Salisbury pivoted early last year to produce protective face shields for frontline workers. Their 800 staff were set up to mass produce equipment at the rate of hundreds of thousands a day. Thank you EGR. I congratulate all manufacturers and local businesses that pivoted when Australia needed them most. Sadly, for some local manufacturers, the Morrison government did not support their initiatives and, instead, awarded contracts for PPE to offshore companies when they could have been filled by local manufacturing businesses.

I know that manufacturing is important. I'm a proud member of the AMWU. Labor knows that manufacturing is important. An Albanese Labor government will rebuild the nation's manufacturing industry with a comprehensive plan to create jobs, boost vital skills, bring industry expertise back onshore and supercharge national productivity. Labor has a plan: we will boost local manufacturing jobs via national rail manufacturing so more trains are built in Australia by local workers, particularly Queensland. We will develop a defence industry development strategy and also an Australian skills guarantee that will put more apprentices on major Commonwealth projects. These will build on the jobs that will flow from Labor's plans—from the Australian Centre for Disease Control to a social housing repair program—and will keep tradie on the tools. I'm so proud of all the businesses in Moreton that have stepped up for Australia when we needed them most. Let's keep this going and keep investing in Australian manufacturing.

A BETTER FUTURE