Topics: Modern Manufacturing Strategy and Victorian COVID restrictions
Karl Stefanovic: More now on the Prime Minister’s $1.5 billion plan to rebuild the nation’s economy. Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews joins us. Karen, I want to start with that. We just heard a GP saying, get kids back to school, let’s open things up in a safe way, why can’t we do what the rest of the country is doing? That frustration is starting to boil over and have real quantifiable effects on people, right?
Karen Andrews: Look, it certainly is. And as a government, federally, we have been focusing on making sure that we are looking to the future, at how we can live and how we can work in the COVID environment in which we find ourselves now. Because it is very important that we have our economy absolutely firing. It’s important for us now, but it’s important for our kids and their kids.
Karl Stefanovic: Okay. So, the PM will make the $1.5 billion announcement today. When will we actually see the first jobs created from that announcement, quantifiably as well?
Karen Andrews: Okay. The first part of the strategy that will be opened is the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund. So, that will support businesses in our identified strategic areas to upgrade their equipment, with a particular focus on technology. That funding round will be open before the end of this year, so we will start to see the money flow as soon as we possibly can after that.
Karl Stefanovic: Don’t we need those jobs sooner?
Karen Andrews: We’ll be doing everything we can do to this in a sensible, practical and efficient timeframe. So, a lot of work has already been done to start working on the guidelines for these programs. I will open that round as soon as I possibly can to get that money flowing.
Karl Stefanovic: So end of the year we’ll start to see jobs, or we’re not sure yet?
Karen Andrews: Well, we already have had a round of the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund, so it is already generating some jobs into the manufacturing sectors now. We will be looking to open the second round as soon as possible. And the faster we can get that happening, the faster those jobs will start to flow. But we’re also then, at the same time, looking at the broader strategy, which is how do we build scale in our priority industries? How do we make our businesses more resilient? And how do we make them more competitive?
Karl Stefanovic: Is $1.5 billion – I know it sounds like a lot – but is it really enough to set up sovereign capability?
Karen Andrews: Well, there is a specific stream, which is the resilience stream, within the program. And that will look, firstly, at mapping what our capabilities are in terms of our sovereign capabilities, so what do we need in times of a crisis?
Karl Stefanovic: We do know though, don’t we? We know exactly what we need.
Karen Andrews: We know a lot. We just need to finalise that work. So we’ve collected an enormous amount of data and information already during the COVID crisis, so we have a pretty fair idea. So this will be really dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. And then we will look at how we will develop that manufacturing capacity here, or develop stronger ties with our like-minded nations so that we can ensure we have the supply chains we need.
Karl Stefanovic: I guess your biggest concern here is balancing the new technology with old jobs. That is a very delicate balance and technology can obviously lead to fewer jobs.
Karen Andrews: Well, the jobs will be different. But the jobs have changed over decades as well, too. So, this is not a cause for alarm for people. This is really an opportunity to be part of manufacturing here in Australia.
Karl Stefanovic: Good to have you on this morning, Karen. Lots of challenges ahead. We’ll welcome you back as soon as we can. Thank you, appreciate it.
Karen Andrews: Pleasure.