Coalition’s Track Record on Manufacturing Take Note of Answers

I, too, rise to take note of answers by Senator Gallagher, supported by her ministerial counterpart, Senator Watt. With your Scottish surname, I’ll start off with this. The concept of history being written is often attributed to Winston Churchill, but, in fact, it is traced back to 1746, of the Battle of Culloden, in Scotland, where one of the clan leaders lamented he didn’t know how many members of his clan died on the battlefield because it’s the victor who writes the history and counts the dead.

Today we have seen a lot of that in this place. Almost every second sentence, in the answers that have been provided, is about what was inherited or the former government and talking about the need to re-create and reinvest in things that are claimed to have been a failure. The test that the Treasurer, who Senator Gallagher represents, held out for himself about the success of their government was what happens to power prices, what happens with apprentices and manufacturing, and what happens with wages? So there’s been a lot of talk about training and manufacturing and skills in this question time.

I think it’s really important to place on the record the fact that last year, in the last full year of the coalition government under Prime Minister Scott Morrison, there was a record $6.4 billion in skills and investment. We actually had the most apprentices, in training, since records began in 1963. Let me repeat that: the most apprentices, in training, since records began in 1963. Part of the reason for that is the strategic investments that the Morrison government made in areas of manufacturing. We had the Modern Manufacturing Initiative and fund, which sought to identify those areas that were critical to Australia’s security and Australia’s future. That went to important areas such as defence, space, medical goods, supply chain resilience, critical minerals—the things that the world has identified, particularly during the period of COVID, that are critical to a nation’s security. And we have seen not only the government funding that has gone into those programs but co-investment from industry, which has led to some of the great outcomes, in terms of the numbers of people in training, but has also led to things like the unemployment rate being down at 3.9 per cent and decreasing.

To go to Senator Gallagher and her representing the Treasurer and the test that he has set, where he has said the test is what happens with manufacturing and apprentices—unlike the coalition, who worked with industry to invest in more productive capacity, which led them to invest to employ people, to train people around apprentices—we see a talkfest. The plan from the Labor government is a talkfest. That’s what their plan is on skills.

When it comes to manufacturing, for those who read the Australian, on 24 July there was quite a substantive article expressing concerns that I have heard, on the ground, from people within both this space and the defence sector—that the razor gang within the Albanese government, as they seek to find savings ahead of the budget, have put a pause on the modern manufacturing grants, which means that companies who have invested, who have employed, who have started to train people, are now expressing concern to me and were expressing concern to the journalist who wrote the article, that these projects which underpin Australia’s sovereignty as security, as supply chain resilience, are now in doubt. So manufacturing has actually been stalled by the Albanese government. So as the Australian public consider these first couple of months of the government, they should compare the positive investment that led to new jobs, new innovation, training for our children and future generations with a talkfest and a razor gang that has put all of those investments in doubt. I think the Australian public will in time realise that those people who have chosen to rewrite history have, in actual fact, no real plan to create a future.