You don’t become a manufacturer unless you’re prepared to fight: Senator Carr

You don’t come to manufacturing if you’re not prepared to fight through hard times, whether you’re a government minister or a first-year apprentice.

That is true in Australia, as it is around the world. You only need to look at the number of countries who recorded contractions or sharp slow-downs in their manufacturing activity in July. Australia. The United States. The United Kingdom. Germany. China. Brazil. We have entered a new era of uncertainty, and manufacturers are fighting for their future.

Every worker and firm approaches that struggle with their own priorities and needs. I take the view that Australian factories deserve the right to assess their situation, and decide if they’ve got a future worth claiming. My decision is clear. It makes sense to manufacture in this country, and it makes sense for governments to invest in local industry.

We have a world-class research power-house, including one of the world’s top ten applied research agencies, CSIRO. We have a stable business climate and intellectual property regime. We have broad and deep manufacturing capabilities, backed by advanced technology.

We are about to introduce a new R&D Tax Credit, that offers generous and flexible support to firms who want to invest in their future. We pioneered a new model for comprehensive business support, Enterprise Connect, and put it into practice across the country. We have worked with industry to build a strong network of advocates and supply chain programs.

These are the elements of a strong and responsive manufacturing sector, ready to keep pace with change. That’s what I take innovation to mean. It is about taking control of our destiny, as an industry and as a nation. It’s about choosing to build high-skill, high-wage jobs in manufacturing for our kids.

The carbon price is no different. It’s simply another plank in Labor’s agenda for change – an agenda laid down, with industry, two years before Tony Abbott discovered his passion for Weet-bix and Ford cars.

Compared to the other pressures we face, from the high dollar to the uncertainty in the global outlook, the immediate impact of the carbon price on most manufacturers will be small. It is far out-weighed by what this new package puts on the table for industry.

This plan will not only push Australia’s progress in clean technology, getting better, cheaper products onto the market for the manufacturers who need them. It will channel $1.2 billion in grants to industry sectors including manufacturers who want to cut their energy bills or break into the clean technology market.

There is a further $9.2 billion to support jobs and innovation in industries with a heavy carbon footprint exposed to the global market.

When the investment and infrastructure boom triggered by Clean Energy Future hits, Australian manufacturers have got to give themselves the opportunity to get in on the contracts. They don’t need special favours – they just need a fair chance to compete. It’s up to us to get our firms into the clean tech supply chain early.

We’re not here to scrape together some carrots to throw to handpicked firms, and call it a serious solution for manufacturing. Every firm deserves real opportunities for the future, and this plan puts them on the table.

That is how Labor will transform the economy, firm by firm, and region by region, shoulder to shoulder with Australian manufacturers. This nation has extraordinary potential – and it’s worth more than the carbon price of a Tim-Tam. 

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