Mystery govt support for Cochlear’s local expansion

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The New South Wales government will give a multi-million-dollar tax break and infrastructure subsidy to Australian giant Cochlear to expand its 40-year-old Sydney manufacturing facilities.

The state government claims the support will create 175 new jobs but won’t say how much it is worth or disclose how much has been allocated from the wider $250 million program so far.

On Sunday, New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet announced “support” for the homegrown medtech giant from the state’s $250 million Jobs Plus Program which he said will create 175 jobs by 2024.

A spokesperson for Investment NSW later clarified the support package is a mix of a “multi-million-dollar” infrastructure rebate and payroll tax relief applied to Cochlear’s new employees.

However, the spokesperson declined to disclose the expected value of the package or how much has been allocated so far from the flagship Jobs Plus Program, which is scheduled to end in weeks.

The New South Wales Government has declined to say how much it is subsidising Cochlear’s Sydney expansion

“Cochlear is a fantastic Australian success story and we are proud to support NSW expansion that will enable improvements to the innovation it delivers across the globe,” Mr Perrottet said in a statement.

“The company is a prime example of a thriving, R&D driven business, with more than 95 per cent of its revenue coming through its exports to more than 180 countries.”

The undisclosed support will come from the state’s $250 million Jobs Plus Program, which began at the end of 2020 and is scheduled to end in June.

The program was set up to create 25,000 new full-time equivalent jobs in New South Wales by mid-2024. It offers support to local or international companies with a significant footprint in the state that commit to adding at least 30 fulltime equivalent employees in the state by 2024.

The goal is to encourage businesses to relocate or expand in the state.

In addition to the tax relief and infrastructure rebates, support packages can also go towards accommodation, planning approvals and the state government’s business “concierge” service.

Businesses submit initial applications and detailed versions if invited, with Investment NSW performing a cost benefit analysis before a Secretaries’ Committee makes recommendations to the relevant minister for a final decision.

Currently this is Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade Stuart Ayres. The Minister has discretion to determine components of any final support package.

A series of ministerial announcements about the Jobs Plus program have touted thousands of jobs being created so far but the individual value of company support packages have not been disclosed.

Investment NSW has also declined to disclose the overall allocation so far or a reason for not doing so.

The Cochlear support is expected to help the company expand its Lane Cove manufacturing facilities and create 175 new jobs by the program’s 2024 project deadline. It was welcomed by Cochlear chief executive and president Dig Howitt in the government’s announcement.

“Cochlear was founded more than 40 years ago and our site at Lane Cove was our first global headquarters and manufacturing facility. With Jobs Plus support, the facility that made our first hearing implants will be making our next generation implants 40 years later,” Mr Howitt said in the government statement.

“Cochlear is part of a thriving medical technology and hearing health ecosystem in NSW that brings significant economic and health benefits to our community. The Jobs Plus Program is backing a sector that will only grow in value over the coming decade.”

Update: A spokesperson for Investment NSW has said the program is “on track” to reach both its 25,000 new jobs target and expend the $250 million available funding. But individual support packages will not be disclosed as they are subject to change based on how many new jobs the company eventually creates, what share is eligible for payroll tax relief and other rebates. The Minister responsible for the Jobs Plus Program has an obligation to report some of these details to Parliament at the end of the financial year.

This article has been updated to include the claim by Investment NSW that the program is “on track”.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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