SPEECH: National Reconstruction Fund Bill 2022

08 March 2023


National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Bill 2022

Second Reading

Ms CLAYDON(NewcastleDeputy Speaker) (10:29):It is with great delight that I rise in this chamber today to speak in support of the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Bill 2022. This bill presents such an enormous range of very exciting opportunities for my electorate of Newcastleand not just my electorate. All of us on this side understand the profound impact that this can have in terms of helping shape our nation's future.

This bill gives effect to the Albanese Labor government's commitment to establish a National Reconstruction Fund Corporation. The government is providing the corporation with $15 billion to enable it to invest in priority areas in the Australian economy. It is gobsmacking to those of us on this side of the House that we would have an opposition voting against such important investment in critical infrastructure and projects for this nationdoomsayers, naysayers. It's not good enough. One of those priority areas for Australia, of course, is investing in renewables and low-emissions technologies, and we have $3 billion already earmarked for this sector.

As the world urgently focuses on the need to decarbonise, the transition to renewables and low-emissions technologies will play a critical role in delivering Australia's emissions reduction target of 43 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. This is a commitment we have signed up to, that we have pledged to the international arena. This bill plus the investment mandate guiding investments combined are going to make sure that the $15 billion fund absolutely will be driving Australia's already natural inclination towards innovation.

While the National Reconstruction Fund will be administered at arm's length from government by an independent board, as it should be, the investment mandate will guide the board on making investments in key sectors which leverage Australia's natural and competitive strengths and reflect the government's priorities. A commitment to lower emissions is one such priority, and the National Reconstruction Fund will help accelerate regions like Newcastle and the Hunter in becoming a renewable energy hub, indeed a superpower. It could support investment in renewables and low-emissions technology so we can pursue big commercial opportunities that lay ahead, including, in my part of the world, manufacturing of components for wind turbines. We know the critical role of offshore wind in the future of energy, so being able to manufacture those important component parts of turbines here in Australia and in towns like Newcastle is a very, very bright part of our future. Things like the production of batteries, new solar technologies, modernising steel and aluminium production, hydrogen electrolysers and innovative packaging solutions for waste reduction are all critical areas that my constituents and Australian citizens everywhere care deeply about.

The Albanese Labor government is committed to supporting carbon-intensive regions like Newcastle and the Hunter to take full advantage of the enormous economic and job opportunities that come with renewable energy. With our skilled workforce, abundant resources, industrial expertise, and critical rail and port infrastructure, Newcastle is poised to take full advantage of these new energy industries. Newcastle and our region have powered Australia for generations, and the Albanese Labor government is ensuring that we will continue to do so for many generations to come. The Port of Newcastle, as many know, is the largest coal export hub in the world. But we are looking to the future and we know that these new energy industries are going to play a vital role in that future. We know that industries like green hydrogen will be critical to the diversification of the economic base of our region. They are a critical part of the diversification plans for the Port of Newcastle and are integral to the shaping of our region's future. We've had 10 years of people putting their heads in the sand, pretending this wasn't going to be, that they didn't need to plan. They pretended everything was going to stay the same. They lied to people in Newcastle and the Hunter. They were going to leave us hanging out to dry as the global economy transformed, leaving regions like mine that are carbon intense with nothing to plan for in the future. Well, that changes with the election of this government. The Albanese Labor government has already committed $100 million to ensure the green hydrogen readiness of the Port of Newcastle. Just last month we opened consultation on a proposed offshore wind zone for the Hunter region, an exciting opportunity for Newcastle to ensure large-scale, reliable and clean electricity for decades to come. In fact, community information sessions are happening in Newcastle today, and I encourage Novocastrians everywhere to attend, to hear, to listen to the experts and to have their voices heard. Supporting Newcastle to become a clean-energy superpower will create thousands of new jobs while critically diversifying our local economy. It is unimaginable that we have members opposite opposing such investments.

The CSIRO predicts that the hydrogen industry alone would account for 7,600 jobs and $11 billion in additional GDP by 2050. Heavy industries moving to carbon-neutral processes like green-hydrogen-manufactured steel could also create 92,000 new jobs over the next decade. These are not insignificant investments. Australia could create as many as 400,000 new jobs by targeting industry support towards zero and low-emissions manufacturing, including renewable energy and battery storage production. Labor's Powering Australia plan will see five out of six new energy jobs in regions like mine. Again, I say to members opposite: how dare you seek to stop and prevent such important, critical investments into regions like Newcastle and the Hunter? How dare you? You pretended nothing was going to happen and were prepared to leave hundreds of thousands of families hanging out to dry. You've been part of the problem and now you seek to prevent being part of the solution. You seek to stop the solutions that we put before the Australian people and now the Australian parliament. It is unacceptable, and I implore all thinking individuals on opposition benches to give very careful consideration to your votes. You say you are a party that issues free votes; let's see how many exercise that freedom when it comes to the crunch.

The National Reconstruction Fund is the first step in Labor's plan to rebuild Australia's industrial base. We want Australia to be a country that makes things again it is that simple. In November last year the honourable Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, addressed the National Press Club and said:

We import the bulk of what we need across sectors. And yet, the signs are there that we can take a different path.

He also said:

We have the smallest manufacturing industry relative to domestic purchases of any OECD country.

Our consumption of manufacturing output is nearly double our domestic manufacturing output.

And we have slipped in economic complexity from a modest 55 in 1995 to 91st in the world in 2020.

The Albanese Labor government was elected on a mandate to drive the transformation of Australian industry and revive our ability to make world-class products here in Australia again. We saw, through the pandemic, how those global supply chains were under huge pressure, and products that we expected to be able to access were very hard, if not impossible, to obtain.

We need to revitalise manufacturing after years of neglect under the coalition government. Those opposite had nine yearsand nine industry ministers in those nine yearsbut left Australia's manufacturing industry in tatters. And they have again shown that they are not on the side of Australian manufacturers. Our focus is on rebuilding Australian manufacturing industry for Australians. With Newcastle's strong background in manufacturing, the National Reconstruction Fund brings enormous potential for our region. Newcastle is ready to take up that challenge. Our region, taking in Lake Macquarie and the Hunter Valley, is ready and is the lead employer of manufacturing in regional New South Wales. Manufacturing is Newcastle's largest output-generating sector, supporting an estimated annual output of $5.76 billion. It generates an estimated $3.13 billion in regional exports, and Newcastle's manufacturing sector spends an estimated $3.492 billion on regional importsmore than any other sector.

Despite this, right now Australia ranks dead last among the OECD countries in manufacturing self-sufficiency. This is untenable! The National Reconstruction Fund provides a crucial financing vehicle specifically to drive investments in projects that will build prosperity, broaden our industrial base and boost regional economic development. The NRF has been welcomed by the Hunter Jobs Alliance, a regionally based alliance comprising nine unions and four community environment groups. Those are not two camps which necessarily sit together too often but, together, they understand fully the benefits that come to regions like ours from the National Reconstruction Fund. In response to the National Reconstruction Fund consultation paper, Hunter Workers said: 'We strongly support the NRF as essential to address investment gaps that are constraining manufacturing opportunities, including in the Hunter and other regions. This is a critical national investment that must be well designed as a durable program for the long term. We commend the Australian government on the initiative and on the rapid development of the NRF program to date.' That's what Hunter Workers had to say. Australian know-how, our scientists and our innovators are among the best in the world. Photovoltaic technology and solar cells were invented here, but 87 per cent of those cells today are made in one countryand it's not Australia. In the next three years, that number will be 94 per cent. If we invent it here, we should make it here: that is Labor's proposition to the Australian people.

Manufacturing matters because it creates full-time meaningful work and secure jobs. The $15 billion in capital provided through the NRF will support projects that create secure, well-paid jobs; drive regional development; and invest in our national sovereignty and our sovereign capability, broadening and diversifying Australia's economy. These are all good things. How anyone would vote against them is unfathomable. Through the National Reconstruction Fund, Labor will partner with business to unlock further potential private investment of more than $30 billion. And the NRFC will invest strategically in high-value-adding projects and priority areas with a strong regional presencethis means in areas like resources, agriculture, defence and renewables. It's anticipated that this will drive scale and growth, creating high-value jobs in the regions. Investments, including those targeting emerging opportunities, will help regional areas to diversify their economies and to create workforce opportunities. This investment will play to the strengths of Newcastle and the Hunter region, supporting new and emerging industries; transitioning existing industries to net zero emissions; and making it easier to commercialise innovation and technology. We are great at all these things; however, people need support now. After 10 years of neglect we need to investwe need to remedy that. Our future in Newcastle is looking bright indeed under this government. Download the Hansard transcript.