Australia’s manufacturing union backs carbon package

Australia’s largest manufacturing union, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), has welcomed the federal government’s carbon tax proposal, despite the Australian Industry Group claiming the package will lump manufacturers with a ‘double tax’.

AMWU national secretary, Dave Oliver, said the package would position Australian manufacturing for a “strong future”.

He also said there is no future for Australian manufacturing if the government doesn’t proceed with the carbon tax.

“It provides compensation for existing emissions-intensive industries and regions and creates a low emission and clean technology industry fund. This package is an important start as we transition to a low carbon economy,” he said.

“There is no future for manufacturing and no real job security for workers over the next decade if we don’t put a price on carbon and back it up with support for low emission technologies and energy efficiency solutions.”

According to Oliver, the government should be commended for the tax, as it will put Australian manufacturers on par with their global counterparts in terms of climate change action.

"The Government should be commended for investing in manufacturing and giving Australia the chance to win a fair share of the jobs that come with clean energy solutions,” he said.

“Also it’s time for industry to step up to the plate and make sure this investment delivers a manufacturing industry for the future. 

“There is a $6 trillion global clean technology market that Australia can now access. From the manufacture of solar panels to wind turbines to hybrid vehicles and all the building materials and lighting systems that will feature in the move to a more energy efficient low carbon economy.“

According to Oliver, the tax will pose great opportunities for Australians making energy-efficient technology for industry, so long as the government agrees to choose Australian-made technology instead of importing.

“The manufacturing unions will be meeting with Government following the announcement today, to ensure measures are put in place so a “make it here” policy helps to ensure that we manufacture the solutions in Australia,” he said.

"As the carbon tax encourages industry to cut its emissions and become more energy efficient, we’ll also see new technologies invented and the support mechanisms in place to see those new ideas commercialised in Australia.

“This fund and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will enable innovations and manufacturing jobs to stay here and not head off overseas to China and India because their government supported them and ours couldn’t. A “make it here” policy will help that happen.”

But according to Australian Industry Group chief executive, Heather Ridout, The government’s climate package will serve industry ‘a double blow’, as existing carbon reduction measures are still in effect. 

“Ai Group’s initial evaluation of the federal government’s climate change package is that large parts of industry will be deeply concerned that their long-term competitiveness will be damaged. The carbon tax represents another cost to be faced at a time of a high dollar, high interest rates, rising electricity prices and global economic uncertainty,” Ridout said.

“Though the government has gone some way to take account of industry concerns, a number of issues remain. 

“The initial price of $23 is excessive and should be reduced; the measures providing transitional support to trade-exposed businesses need to be strengthened; and there is no plan for cleaning-out the existing array of inefficient and greenhouse gas abatement measures.

“The $23 price is particularly hard to accept when it is added to the impact of the numerous existing, mostly wasteful, carbon reduction measures imposed by the federal and state governments. The fact that the package does nothing to eradicate these measures means that industry effectively faces a double carbon tax burden.”

Read Ridout’s full opinion piece here.

AMWU’s Oliver says hundreds of manufacturers will benefit from the package, both large and medium firms.

These are:

Pacific Hydro (Victoria, WA, SA and NSW) is one of Australia’s leading clean tech businesses. Building wind farms and hydro-electric facilities in Australia and other parts of the world. Pacific Hydro will be major players in the coming jobs and investment boom with clean energy that will be stimulated further with the climate change package.

Hoffman Engineering (WA) is a family based fabrication and heavy engineering business that has been in traditional manufacturing for several decades. With the emergence of the climate change challenge the business is now a key player in cutting gears for the clean energy industry as well as manufacturing parts for such systems.

Toyota, Ford and Holden (Victoria, SA) and many of their more energy intensive automotive suppliers will have the opportunity to get some support from the Government’s climate change package for investment in new light components and getting their businesses more energy efficient.

Commercialisation Agencies (Nationwide) Australian universities will be able to access the new clean technology R&D fund the Government has established. The intellectual property they patent as a result of breakthrough technologies will be licensed to Australian manufacturers to make here. 

Examples of smaller firms setting up and preparing for commercialisation of their innovations: 

AquaGen (Victoria) has developed ground-breaking new technology for harnessing the energy of the ocean’s waves to produce electricity or desalinated water. It has manufactured and installed a demonstration of the first pilot version of the patented SurgeDrive system on Lorne Pier in Victoria.

Planet Innovation (Victoria) has developed a hot water system with significantly increased efficiency through the use of solar heated air to assist in heating the water. This invention has a much lower carbon footprint than existing hot water systems, with a demonstrated reduction in energy use of up to 50%.

Active Reactor Company (Victoria) has designed an electronic device that continuously controls the power supplied to High Intensity Discharge (HID) lamps – typically used for street and major road lighting. They provide energy savings of 15% to 25% and a significant increase in lamp life.