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Muscle man wimps out on manufacturing.

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The Hon Ian Macfarlane MP Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources

Speech - 29 July 2004

Muscle man wimps out on manufacturing

If Mark Latham was leadership material he would have told his AMWU comrades today that they should support the US FTA because it is in the national interest. Instead the man who used to want to ‘muscle up’ has wimped out.

With Labor in disarray over the US FTA, Mark Latham has resorted to a flimsy smokescreen, releasing today a three-page statement on manufacturing policy.

This year, the Howard Government announced $5 billion to support innovation, including more than $1 billion to assist businesses to develop successful commercial products. Labor's response is a small $25 million research centre.

The proposal to revive the Australian Manufacturing Council is a disastrous recipe for increased union power in the sector. In the 1980s and 1990s, trade unions used taxpayers' money to increase their power through the Australian Manufacturing Council. In an attempt to soften union opposition to the US FTA Labor has today re-announced their previous commitment to revive this discredited talking shop.

The Council will be tasked with the development of a ten year manufacturing strategy. After eight years in Opposition the best Labor can come up with is a plan to develop a strategy. What has the ALP been doing for the last eight years?

I welcome Labor's sudden interest in a 10 year strategy. The Government introduced a $4.2 billion ten year strategy for the automotive industry in 2002 and announced another $747 million 10 year strategy for the textiles, clothing and footwear sector last year. Labor has so far indicated that it will block the TCF strategy in the Senate, despite pleas from the sector for a speedy passage of the bills.

Labor also plans to restructure the Industry Department. We already know what that means. Labor announced months ago it will abolish Invest Australia, the agency which attracts investment to Australia.

Invest Australia has been critical to securing major projects, such as the Holden engine plant, for Australia. Invest Australia is now working with companies on projects with a potential value of $50 billion. In 2002-03, Invest Australia brought 28 major projects, worth almost $300 million, to Australia. More than 1,400 new jobs and an expected $360 million in exports are the result. But that agency will go in Labor's restructured Department.

Under Labor the manufacturing sector lost approximately 150,000 jobs between 1982 and 1996. Under the Howard Government, manufacturing output has increased by 19% in real terms to be worth almost $20 billion. Annual growth in the sector has averaged almost 2.5 per cent, a vast improvement on the last years of Labor government when growth stagnated at less than 1 per cent. The manufacturing sector earned a record profit of $15.1 billion in 2002-03. Record profits have meant record investment. Business investment has risen by an annual average of 8.2 per cent, more than double the rate under Labor. In 2002-03, private capital expenditure grew by 14.8 per cent.

Media contact: Kirsty Boazman, 02 62777 580 or 0412 171 444

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