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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 18135

Address to the Australian Steel Convention, Canberra

Photo of Gillard, Julia

Gillard, Julia

Period of Service: 24/06/2010 to 27/06/2013

More information about Gillard, Julia on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/09/2011

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 18135

I thank you for your welcome today and for the opportunity to speak with you at a time when the Australian steel industry is thinking deeply about what the future holds.

Steel, of course, is a major player in the national economy.

In 2006-07 all major Australian steel manufacturing activities employed a total of over 91,000 people and generated revenues of $29 billion.

As a government, we are determined to keep the whole economy strong.

Every region.

Every sector.

Including manufacturing and including steel.

The health of the Australian steel industry is critical to our infrastructure, energy, defence, transport, automotive, communications, construction and consumer goods industries.

In the new high-tech, low-carbon economy we're creating, Australian steel has a strong and sustainable future.

It will continue to be a source of well paid, high skill jobs for Australian workers.

Because nothing matters more than bringing the dignity and benefits of employment to all who want to work.

Friends, with the high dollar and lingering global instability, creating a new economic future won't always be easy.

But it is also a time of incredible opportunity as the rise of Asia brings the weight of global economic growth right to our doorstep.

As we prepare to meet the future, our economic picture is one of fundamental strength and resilience.

Last week's National Accounts show our economy grew by a robust 1.2 per cent in the June quarter, the strongest quarterly growth in four years.

Manufacturing was up 2.8 per cent and Transport, Postal and Warehousing rose by 4.4 per cent.

Importantly for this gathering, metal products rose 14 percent for the quarter and 16 percent in the year to June.

These quarterly results reinforce the broader signs of underlying economic strength we have seen since the GFC.

Strong growth in corporate profits, rising incomes, strong savings, solid consumption growth, unemployment levels that remain low by world standards.

And interest rates lower than when we came to office in 2007.

Above all, business is investing with confidence.

A record $120 billion in 2010-11, with a record $150 billion to follow in this financial year already underway.

Now despite the strong growth figures released last week, it is true that not all sectors of our economy are growing as much as we would like.

Many industries are doing it tough due to consumer caution and the higher dollar, and it is no secret that steel is one of those industries.

That patchwork pattern is a reflection of a global economic transformation taking place all around us.

Friends, for the first time in our history, Australia is not prisoner to the tyranny of distance.

Over the last two centuries, Australia was stranded far from the centres of growth in Europe and North America.

In this century we are in the right place at the right time.

The shift of global growth from West to East is perhaps the biggest economic realignment since the Industrial Revolution.

China is now the second largest economy in the world, and is expected to surpass the US in size by 2020 while India is on track to surpass the US by mid century.

The transformation of the Asian economies from developing to developed economy status represents a massive and lasting shift in the global economic order.

Asia's growth will continue for decades as the nations of the region build homes, factories, roads, railways and power supplies to service billions of people.

That growth means rising demand for Australia's natural resources, lifting our terms of trade to unprecedented levels.

In the longer term, those billions of people will also demand the goods and services that come with life in a more advanced society.

Goods and services like high-end manufactures, pharmaceuticals, legal and financial services, education, health care, fine food and wine.

It is mixture of opportunities and challenges.

The challenges are real and they are painful.

We can face them with courage and determination, shaping events to meet our own ends.

Modernising our economy to meet the demands of the future.

An economy creating new jobs, new opportunity.

With no person, no place, left behind.

Friends, there's been much talk about inquiries and reviews.

Certainly the Coalition's policy review is no answer to the hundreds of millions they pledge to cut from industry assistance.

I believe that manufacturing industry in Australia deserves action now.

That is why this Government has a set of policies to lift productivity and to drive balanced growth across the whole of our economy.

High speed broadband - linking every part of Australia to every part of the world.

A tax on the minerals we all own to cut company tax, boost national savings and build regional infrastructure.

Skills and participation, to lift the capacity of all Australians to find work and support a growing economy.

Personal tax reform to reward participation and lift people out of welfare.

Supporting regions like Tasmania and the Illawarra with new infrastructure, investment and partnerships.

And direct support to help industry face the world and achieve its best.

Friends, with world-class research, innovation and infrastructure, we can build a vibrant manufacturing sector as an integral part of the new economy.

We want to see Australia manufacturing investing in new technologies, new business processes and new skills.

Moving up the value chain, and accessing global supply and design networks.

Manufacturing based on comparative advantage and value-adding.

Building on our record of creating value-added products like Colorbond that meet a real market need.

We know that you shouldn't be left do all those things alone.

Targeted, practical, effective assistance will help you get there.

Targeted, practical, effective assistance that's on the table right now.

I am proud that the Australian Government is now spending $9.4 billion on R&D and innovation, 43 per cent higher than the level of spending when we came to office.

Proud that we have redesigned the R&D Tax Incentive to make it a tax credit which will provide assistance to innovating companies when they need it most.

And proud that we are making record investments in the CSIRO and continuing the Cooperative Research Centre program as engine-rooms of innovation in this nation.

Indeed, there are six CRCs working in steel and steel related areas.

But by far the biggest impact will come from our bold decision to set Australia on the path to a clean energy future.

Friends, in a few hours time I will be introducing historic legislation to put a price on carbon and accelerate our transition to a low carbon economy.

For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, we will start decoupling emissions growth from economic growth.

It's an historic opportunity to propel our manufacturing sector to the forefront of smart, low emissions technology.

Those who stand against the clean technologies that come with a price on carbon are no friends of Australia's manufacturing sector.

The Government understandsthat there is nothing more important to our economy than building strong industries that provide jobs and opportunity for all.

So our carbon package contains special measures to support employment and keep our nation competitive internationally.

Targeted assistance measures to ensure that our industries are in the best position possible to manage the journey.

Forty per cent of the revenue raised from pricing carbon will go towards this purpose.

Our $1.2 billion Clean Technology Investment Programs and the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation will also provide a major stimulus to a whole new range of manufacturing businesses.

As a result, Australia will be able to seize a competitive advantage in developing and applying the cutting edge technologies of the clean energy future.

Make no mistake, future prosperity lies with those countries that grasp the new frontier of clean energy technologies.

Australian manufacturing is well placed to gain its share of those opportunities.

We saw last month at the Clean Tech Showcase 15 Australian firms telling the world what they can do.

Each producing high-tech, clean energy products such as new lightweight materials that cut energy use.

Exporting to the world.

Employing high-skill staff - in high wage jobs.

And giving a glimpse of what a clean energy future can look like.

But for manufacturing and steel in particular, the challenges of transition demand a more targeted and immediate response.

Friends, I know today there are hundreds of steel workers facing a different future as they leave the industry.

There are more remaining in the industry who wonder what will happen to them as well.

That's why as soon as Blue Scope announced its plans, we were immediately on the ground with $130 million in assistance including $100 million as an advance facility of our $300 million Steel Transformation Plan: the first steel plan for Australia in almost 30 years.

Friends, innovative and efficient manufacturing has great prospects in Australia's economic future.

That's why we've made our Jobs and Competitiveness Program a centrepiece of the Government's carbon pricing scheme.

The Jobs and Competitiveness Program will provide assistance of $9.2 billion over the first three years.

In addition, we will provide free permits to the steel industry covering 94.5 per cent of the impact of the carbon price.

The Government will kickstart investments in energy efficient capital equipment and low-pollution technologies, processes and products through the $1.2 billion Clean Technology Investment and Innovation Programs.

This will assist the sector to transform into an increasingly efficient and sustainable industry in a low-carbon economy.

That is what the Government's Steel Transformation Plan is all about: transformation.

Like the Button plans, it is a bridge to build industry resilience and competitiveness.

It is not a handout.

It is a way of helping your industry muscle-up and face the world with confidence.

For Australian industry to compete in a global market, it must have access to opportunities and be internationally competitive.

The Government has been assisting the sector to access these opportunities and we recognise that more can be done.

We have already worked with almost 500 steel and metal fabricator businesses through Enterprise Connect in business development and technology access.

We have provided $34 million for the Buy Australian at Home and Abroad initiative to ensure that local suppliers directly benefit from strong growth in the resources sector.

And $19.1 million of investment through the 2009 Australian Government Procurement Statement.

In support of those measures, we've appointed the Honourable

Peter Beattie as Australia's first Resources Sector Supplier Envoy to champion Australian industry participation in the resources sector.

We're also appointing respected industry leaders as Supplier Advocates, to champion suppliers in the government marketplace and help industry raise the competitiveness of firms and supply chains.

Supplier Advocates have been appointed for the rail, IT, water and the built environment sectors, while Mr Dennis O'Neill was recently appointed as the Steel Supplier Advocate.

We hope to appoint additional advocates in the coming year, including in the clean technologies and in the resources sector.

Friends, we are serious about Australian industry being able to compete for work.

From 1 January 2010, an approved Australian Industry Participation Plan has been required for all new Australian Government contracts worth more than $20 million.

We are already working with the Western Australian Government on monitoring the implementation of AIP plans for Chevron's Gorgon and Wheatstone projects and now it's time to look at the next steps.

Firstly, we are considering publishing of AIP plans and outcomes.

This would give industry more confidence about the effectiveness of the AIP approach.

Secondly, we introduced AIP frameworks for Commonwealth procurement items with a value of over $20 million.

We are now considering how to extend the AIP to other Commonwealth- funded projects and programs.

These steps would create more opportunities for Australian industry to compete for the lucrative contracts being let in the resources sector and across the economy more generally.

We also want to ensure that Australian manufacturers aren't forced to unfairly compete against product which has been dumped on our shores.

In June we announced a balanced reform package that will better protect our industries and workforce from unfair trade practices.

The reforms will improve the way we administer global anti-dumping rules and better align our laws and practices with other countries, while ensuring we meet our World Trade Organisation obligations.

The changes will improve access to anti-dumping remedies for businesses, and investigations will be resolved more quickly.

Greater resources and expertise will ensure greater consistency with anti-dumping practices in other countries.

It's one thing for a free trade nation like Australia to face fair competition in the global marketplace.

But we won't let our manufacturers be undercut by nations who supply goods below production cost.

It's not fair, and it's not on.

Friends, these are powerful measures, and they stem from the Government's abiding commitment to strengthen Australian manufacturing and exports.

Reflecting that commitment, the Government we will engage in a series of events between now and the end of the year to support our manufacturing and export industries.

In November, Peter Beattie will organise a resources sector forum to provide practical leadership in linking Australian suppliers to opportunities in the resources sector.

In October, the Tax Forum will have a strong focus on the issues of a two speed economy and whether the tax system can help to address them.

And immediately afterwards, we will also host a Future Jobs Forum to generate a shared understanding of the opportunities and challenges in the economy, with a special focus on sectors under pressure.

During this time of rapid change, dialogue between government, business and unions is essential to bullet-proof Australian jobs.

This day-long event will discuss how Australia can build on its outstanding record of economic growth and job creation in recent years, and best position our nation to benefit from the changing global economy.

It will focus on how to move manufacturing and other sectors further up the value chain - driving business innovation, accessing global export markets, and using the most advanced approaches to management and workforce development.

Friends, in these first decades of the 21stcentury, the global economyis changing more rapidly and completely than any of us imagined was possible.

Technology is also changing.

So is the way we use and create energy.

Each of these poses challenges.

But each of them also offers us the opportunity to create new jobs and prosperity.

My call to you is to continue working to turn this time of change to our advantage.

Together we can build a new economy where manufacturing will always have a place.

A strong economy - modernised, open, competitive.

Unafraid of the world.

Unafraid of the future.

I believe Australia is up for that challenge, and together we will succeed.

Transcript 18135