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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2618

Manufacturing


Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (14:53): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Innovation, Senator Lundy. Can the minister explain why the $1 billion clean technology investment programs, including the food and foundries program, which are funded by the carbon tax to assist Australian based manufacturing companies to purchase and install less emissions-intensive plant and equipment in their factories, do not have an Australian industry content rule? Can the minister further explain how the government justifies this to Australian manufacturers and workers producing low-emission plant and equip­ment, including in the solar hot water heating industry, as they watch carbon tax revenues leave Australia for the pockets of the Chinese, German and other overseas manufacturers?


Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:53): The government, I can assure you, Senator Madigan, is committed to ensuring Austra­lian manufactures are given every chance to succeed. As I am sure the senator would appreciate, it is not appropriate for the government to force private companies receiving government grants to use specific suppliers. Firstly, it is not always possible to source Australian suppliers and, secondly, such a local content requirement would present a violation of our international trade obligations.

The Gillard government has comprehen­sive policies to maximise the opportunity for Australian industry to participate in major projects, including, as announced in October 2011 by the Prime Minister, that the government will apply Australian industry participation plan requirements to large government grants over $20 million and require publication of Australian industry participation plans and outcomes. These provisions will apply, in the Clean Technology Investment Program referenced by Senator Madigan, to grants over $20 million. In addition the government has committed $53 million to the Buy Australian at Home and Abroad initiative, and this program includes the supplier advocates. These advocates assist Australian small businesses to improve their competitiveness and win a greater share of procurement opportunities.

I would also like to add that in December 2011 the government appointed Dr Marc Newson as the Clean Technologies Supplier Advocate. The clean technologies supplier advocates strategy engages Australian businesses that manufacture and produce environmentally friendly technologies to undertake industry development activities aimed at raising their competitiveness. This will help Australian businesses, small and large, to capitalise on the growing demand for clean technologies and the high-wage, high-skilled jobs that they support and that will support our economy into the future.


Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (14:56): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. As the lack of an Australian industry content rule could lead to most, and perhaps all, of the $1 billion clean technology investment funds being spent on overseas manufacture, plant and equipment, why isn't the federal government requiring funding recipients to spend some of the programs' $1 billion on Australian manufactured plant and equipment?


Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:56): As I indicated in my earlier answer, it is not appropriate for the government to require or to force private companies receiving govern­ment grants to use specific suppliers. The local content requirements would, as I said, be in violation of our trade obligations. What I can do is reassure you, Senator Madigan, that the government is doing everything possible to make sure that Australian businesses and suppliers are aware of the program and the opportunities within the grants. A total of 2,407 people have registered for and/or attended public information sessions on the new clean technology programs—2,096 people for sessions in our capital cities and 311 people for sessions in regional centres. There have been more than 23,000 visits to the AusIndustry website about the new programs and we will continue to promote them amongst Australian small businesses operating in this sector.


Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (14:57): Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. In light of the statement by Senator Kim Carr in the Senate on 29 February this year that 'when it comes to buying Austra­lian' the government 'can simply not get enough', does the government accept that it has a responsibility to insert a minimum Australian industry content rule into the guidelines of the Clean Technology Investment Program? And if the government is going to change the program, when will it do so?


Senator LUNDY (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Sport) (14:57): Once again, as I have indicated in both of my previous responses, we would be in violation of our international trade obligations to insert minimum Australian industry content rules into the guidelines for the Clean Technology Investment Program. What I would also like to say is that we have absolute confidence in the skill, competitiveness and talents of our clean technology sector to be able to compete not only in Australia but in the global market. We believe firmly that with the supplier advocate and with the other programs and support that I outlined they will have ample opportunities to do so.

The $200 million Clean Technology Inno­vation Program aims to increase research and development, proof of concept and early-stage commercialisation activities in the areas of clean energies. This is open for applications in mid-2012. It will be a competitive, merits based grant program, again underlining the fact that this is an area of growth for Australian business. (Time expired)