Federal Labor has unveiled another industry investment fund, this one targeted at advanced manufacturing and rebuilding Australia’s industrial base across sectors ranging from transport, defence and resources, to agriculture, food processing and medical science.
The new Advanced Manufacturing Fund will be part of Labor’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund and is the party’s second $1b investment fund announced in the past several days after the similar fund targeting Critical Technologies was unveiled on last Friday.
The Advanced Manufacturing Fund would give local businesses access to capital to diversify operations and industrial processes and would encourage investment in research and development to enable companies to climb the technological ladder.
Labor committed to broad consultations with local communities, businesses, unions, regional development authorities, states and local governments to identify projects that support innovation and grow advanced manufacturing jobs.
Renewables and low emission technologies manufacturing would also be a focus of the new fund, it said.
The Coalition had overseen the loss of 85,000 manufacturing jobs since it came to office, Labor said, with Australia ranked last among OECD peers for manufacturing self-sufficiency.
“I want to be the Prime Minister who helps Australia stand on our own two feet again. This is about sovereign capability,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese said.
“Serious countries should make things. Serious countries can stand on their own two feet when it comes to manufacturing essentials.”
Labor’s shadow minister for industry and innovation Ed Husic said the Advanced Manufacturing Fund was being set up against an environment where capital is harder to get.
“This is about helping those firms that are already exploring advanced manufacturing models and looking to scale them, and to see how we can provide capital support to them as well,” Mr Husic told InnovationAus.com.
“In an environment where we think capital is going to be harder to get, we need to make sure that we don’t stall in terms of getting firms to embrace new technology and to improve the way they work and to sharpen their performance, to keep pace with or to beat international competition,” he said.
Labor points to Australia’s fall down the ranks of the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s Global Innovation Index. Australia ranks 15th on the index for innovation inputs, but ranks 33rd for innovation outputs – putting the nation at 25th overall on the index, down from 20th three years ago.
Similarly on Harvard University’s Atlas of Economic Complexity, Australia has been on a long-term slide, and currently ranks 86th in the world, sandwiched between Paraguay at 85th and Uzbekistan at 87th.
“The Coalition has run down manufacturing capability in this country and jobs have been lost as a result,” Ed Husic said.
“Labor wants to back the local know-how that is keen to not just rebuild manufacturing but use our smarts and technology to put our advanced manufacturing potential at the front of the global pack.”
Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles, who is also shadow minister for national reconstruction said there are hundreds of thousands of skilled and well-paid jobs up for grabs, but Australia would miss out “if manufacturing all goes overseas.”
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