Deputy Opposition leader and shadow industry minister Sussan Ley says the government’s claims about “saving manufacturing” are at a “complete disconnect” from the reality of the National Reconstruction Fund, which will not save firms from the high cost of energy.
Ms Ley also highlighted that the government does not have an estimate of the number of manufacturing jobs the NRF would create, and has not set a date for when the first NRF investments would be made.
Speaking to journalists in Canberra on Wednesday, Ms Ley accused the Industry and Science minister Ed Husic of making “motherhood statements that anyone might make” about supporting manufacturing and manufacturing jobs.
“I’ll make this prediction. Many manufacturers are operating on the first day of Anthony Albanese as Prime Ministership. They’re not going to be in business at the end of this term of Parliament and Labor’s National Reconstruction Fund will not save those manufacturers.”
The government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund passed the Senate late on Tuesday and was legislated on Wednesday.
As the House of Representatives considered the Senate amendments to the NRF Corporation bill earlier on Wednesday, Ms Ley said “the bill as amended by the Senate poses more questions than answers”.
“Key issues remain. Consultation has been rushed. Parliamentary oversight has been sidestepped. Advice on critical matters was not sought by the government in their drafting of the bill, nor in their response to the amendments that were agreed to.
“There is not a single clause or amendment in this legislation that will tackle the high and rising cost of energy, a shortage of skilled workers. A disrupted supply chain or the red tape impacting our industries.
“This bill remains silent on these issues that are critical to the success of our manufacturers. Instead, it offers government loans and equities not once have I heard these called for by our industries, it’s not their primary concern.”
Reiterating her opposition to the bill, Ms Ley said “the truth is, the National Reconstruction Fund won’t save a single job and Labor have already sold workers up the creek in a dodgy deal with the Greens,” Ms Ley said.
She added that the implications of prohibiting NRF investment in coal, gas, and native forestry projects “are indeed dire”.
“When asked in the Senate, how far reaching these amendments will be down the forestry gas or coal supply chain, the minister dividend dodged providing no assurances, no clear answers this bill also lacks the appropriate transparency is warranted by a fund of this scale size and complexity,” Ms Ley said.
The Coalition announced it would oppose the National Reconstruction Fund at the start of February. As the Corporation bill passed the House of Representatives, Industry minister Ed Husic invited the Coalition to enter negotiations on supporting the bill.
Six amendment sheets were proposed by the Coalition in the Senate but none of them passed. These intended to introduce additional scrutiny measures to NRF investments.
An amendment introduced by Independent Senator David Pocock that would require the NRF board to disclose the identity of investment recipients in its quarterly reports was also unsuccessful. It received support from the Coalition but not from the government or the Greens.
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