Husic approves all manufacturing grants under review

James Riley
Editorial Director

With a review now complete, Industry minister Ed Husic has now approved all grants made by the former Morrison government under its Modern Manufacturing Initiative on the eve of the May federal election.

Mr Husic had put the processing of all grants under the scheme that had been announced but contracts not yet signed on hold while an examination of the program looked at the integrity of its grant selection processes.

Mr Husic was highly critical of the Modern Manufacturing Initiative both before the election was called and during the campaign, committing to reviewing the scheme if Labor won government.

At the time, Mr Husic had been highly critical of the structure of the selection process under which former Prime Minister Scott Morrison had appointed himself as the final decision-maker for more than $1 billion in grants, calling the program an “election slush fund.”

In a statement issued Friday morning, Mr Husic says he is now satisfied that the grant rules were appropriate and that these rules were followed, and that the advice of independent selection panels were followed.

With the completion of the MMI review, Mr Husic has now asked the Department of Industry, Science and Resources to work with the successful companies awarded grants under the MMI program to begin the contracting process.

It also means that the hundreds of companies that had applied for grants and never told whether or not their application had been successful will now be told the result of the process.

From 1 March to 17 May 2022, 68 grants were announced under the MMI program. In total there were 502 eligible applications to the program.

The former government failed to inform 400 applicants they were unsuccessful under the Translation, Integration and Collaboration streams, with just 34 notified.

Mr Husic is claiming some credit for the integrity of the selection system that was ultimately put in place for the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, saying the political pressure applied when the program was announced ensured that independent assessment panels were put in place – unlike other grant programs of the previous government.

“The government is now satisfied the companies have been awarded MMI funding according to the applicable grant process,” Mr Husic said in a statement.

“As soon as the Modern Manufacturing Initiative was announced in 2020, we were on their case. Unlike some programs under the former Liberal and National Government, the MMI grants were independently assessed.

“Given the former government’s track record on grants, it was entirely appropriate this program was closely examined, a process which started in June.

“However, it remains the case that under the Collaboration Stream, former Prime Minister Morrison made himself the final decision maker in defiance of usual practice,” Mr Husic said.

“Rather than announcing these grants in a timely way at the height of the pandemic when manufacturing was desperate for support, the Morrison government waited to the last possible moment close to an election.

“It is completely unfair the Coalition government left so many companies wondering if they had been successful for months. They were more than happy to use announcements during the election campaign but didn’t have the guts to be honest with those that missed out.

Department figures show there were 81 eligible applicants for Modern Manufacturing Initiative Collaboration Stream of which the former Prime Minister selected 17 applications, with all 17 of these successful applications announced in advance of the election.

Of the 64 unsuccessful applications under this scheme, 34 unsuccessful companies were notified by the former, but 30 unsuccessful applicants were not notified.

There were 227 eligible applicants under the MMI Integration Stream, of which former Industry minister Angus Taylor selected 32 successful applications. All 32 of these successful applications were announced ahead of the election – and 195 unsuccessful companies were never notified by the former government.

There were 194 eligible applicants for MMI Translation Stream, of which the former minister selected 19 successful applications. Of these, 18 of the 19 successful grants were announced ahead of the election, and 175 unsuccessful applicants were never notified of the result by the former government.

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