24 May 2021
When I was preparing the Lilley budget submission, I had one question front and centre. It was: what infrastructure do northsiders need to make our community the best place in the world to live? As it turns out, the LNP do not prioritise the north side like I do. In fact, they did not present any vision or plan at all. Not a cent of new infrastructure funding was announced for Lilley in the federal budget a fortnight ago. When the Prime Minister decided to pop by for a photo op at Geebung the following week, the least he could have done was bring a construction crew to get the Beams Road upgrade underway, rather than a camera crew to take photos of an empty construction site. Overall, this lacklustre budget is a real slap in the face for Queenslanders. Less than half of the Morrison government's infrastructure spend in Queensland will be delivered in the next four years, with more than half of their budget spend being pushed off into the never-never beyond the forward estimates. They are all announcement and no delivery.
We have had massive interstate migration to Queensland in the past 12 months. We have had a net gain of 30,000 people move to our magnificent tropical north. We have the most decentralised population in the country, and in terms of land we are twice as big as New South Wales and seven times as big as Victoria. We are fighting to be the home of the summer Olympics in 2032, which has the potential to be a huge boost for local jobs and for our hospitality and tourism sectors, but we first need the infrastructure to support that growth. We are ripe for investment, yet the Morrison government gave New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia double the infrastructure funding that it gave Queensland in the federal budget a fortnight ago.
There are three sure-fire ways to generate economic growth and get Australia out of the recession: invest in infrastructure to lift capacity and boost productivity; invest in people through education and training; and ensure all infrastructure projects include a provision for the compulsory employment of Australian apprentices. There is a simple way to do all three: build here, create jobs and train apprentices. Reconstruct Australia in Australia. Australians need a plan that genuinely contributes to our national prosperity and the growth of new modern jobs for our local economies now and for generations to come. A robust local manufacturing sector ensures local workers have well-paid, permanent jobs that allow them to spend in our small businesses and stimulate our local economies. Manufacturing creates those jobs, provides that certainty and is in our national interest.
Using the power of government, we should be transforming our economy to power manufacturing in our industrial neighbourhoods, like Geebung and Nudgee in my electorate of Lilley. An Albanese Labor government will deliver national reconstruction that is focused squarely on jobs—good, secure jobs. We will establish a $15 billion fund to invest in local industry and business to put Australian jobs first. We will rebuild the nation's manufacturing industry with a comprehensive plan to create jobs, to boost vital skills and to bring industry expertise back onshore. We will develop sovereign industrial and research capabilities and build up the skills and expertise of the Australian workforce.
I recently had the pleasure of showcasing the Sanofi manufacturing plant in Virginia, another of our industrial hubs, with Labor's shadow minister for national reconstruction, employment, skills and small business and shadow minister for science, Richard Marles. Sanofi shows us what locals can achieve if we invest in manufacturing, science and research. Sanofi employs 350 locals to manufacture supplements in Virginia, which we sell in Australia and export abroad. Sanofi has recently announced that it will be investing $630 million over five years to create a unique vaccine production site in Singapore. The new site will provide Sanofi with the ability to produce innovative vaccines on a massive scale for Asia and quickly respond to future pandemic risks. We need to create an environment that incentivises Sanofi to build vaccine production sites right here in Australia. High-tech, high-quality, Australian made manufacturing is what we need more of on the north side.
The climate emergency presents Australia with an opportunity for significant economic growth. It presents an opportunity to train apprentices for the new energy jobs of the future.
The climate emergency presents Australia with an opportunity for significant economic growth. It presents an opportunity to train apprentices for the new energy jobs of the future. We want those jobs. We want them on our shores and we want them in our local economies. As a nation we have a significant competitive advantage in creating those jobs. Australia has some of the world's best natural assets—in solar, in wind and in minerals—that could power our new energy economy. We also have some of the smartest, hardest working people on earth, who want to work in a prosperous new industry like the renewables sector. We should view addressing the climate emergency as an opportunity to create good jobs and to put Australia in a strong position to realise our potential as a superpower in the great economic reset.
Locally, in my electorate of Lilley, there are renewable companies like GEM Energy, a solar power and battery company that started out in Emerald and now has offices on the north side of Brisbane and in Darwin. They've grown from a team of five to over 60 direct employees, whose jobs range from engineering and electrical to sales and administration. The story of GEM Energy proves that there is a bright future for Australian workers in renewable energy. Aaron, who was working in an insurance call centre and living near the poverty line, started his career in solar energy and moved up through that industry over the last 10 years to become a manager for GEM. Solar has allowed Aaron and his family to build a life on the north side. Young men have gone from casual workforce employment to completing electrical apprenticeships in solar. Older workers struggling to find work can retrain and find good permanent jobs in the solar industry. We need to support these jobs of the future for our young people in need of permanent and meaningful work and for our older workers who are looking for a new industry to utilise their skills and experience.
But, instead of securing those new energy jobs for Australians, the LNP have wasted eight years of opportunities by bickering amongst themselves over 22 different climate and energy policies. Just recently, the LNP squandered a $1 billion job opportunity in Brisbane. In partnership with the federal government, the Brisbane City Council is spending $1 billion on the Brisbane Metro. I welcome the decision to improve greater Brisbane transport network connectivity and especially the decision to upgrade Brisbane's bus fleet with 16 new all-electric vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions. But, if we are going to spend $1 billion of taxpayers' money on new infrastructure projects like this, we need to make sure that Brisbane taxpayers and ratepayers get a return on that investment, by supporting local jobs and by supporting Australian manufacturers.
We have the capacity and the capability to develop and build electric buses for the city's non-metro routes. Volgren, a Brisbane based company, builds our current bus fleet. The $19 million bus-building facility was built in 2009 at Eagle Farm, and it was designed to build three buses a week. But, instead of choosing Volgren be the primary supplier of the all-new electric fleet for Brisbane, backing local jobs and backing Australian manufacturing, the Brisbane City Council, in conjunction with this Morrison government, have decided to appoint a European company, HESS, to be the prime contractor in their supply contract partnership, alongside Swiss multinational company ABB—the largest investment any Australian government has ever made in electric mass transport road vehicles. It should be supporting Australian manufacturers and supporting local workers. Money provided by taxpayers should not be going to offshore multinational companies when we have a perfectly good manufacturing plant right here in Eagle Farm, already in use, flush with local workers. But the LNP Brisbane City Council has decided to hand out over $190 million of ratepayer money to a foreign owned company to build buses for Brisbane. Shame. Only the fit-out and the finishing of those buses will happen now at Eagle Farm. Brisbane workers will only be able to come in right at the end and finish off a job that they had every right to expect to be doing right from the start—a right denied by the LNP.
We should be growing our local capacity to build these buses, not putting it in the too-hard basket and importing it from overseas instead. We know it can be done. Volgren already manufactures electric buses in Melbourne, and those buses have just been delivered to Transdev Capalaba, they are operation and they are charged by solar energy. The Brisbane City Council has also decided not to renew its contract with Volgren for the ongoing supply of our city's bus fleet, instead awarding a new contract to Yutong Australia, who have imported their buses from China since 2012. Once again, an Australian manufacturer, local jobs and local opportunities are being neglected by an LNP council and an LNP government who are focused instead on helping out their mates, the large offshore multinational companies.
Australian universities and TAFEs are the home of Australian innovation and the pursuit of knowledge and skilled work. Education and training are the great equalisers, because they give all people of all backgrounds, no matter their postcode, an opportunity to skill up and to pursue their own aspiration. Our universities and TAFEs give aspiring Australians who are entering or re-entering the workforce the skills and the tools they need to find a job that they love and that allows them to build the life that they dream of. But the Morrison government's 2021-22 federal budget reduced funding for universities by 10 per cent over the next three years, while TAFE funding will be slashed by 24 per cent. They have also decided to finish an emergency $1 billion grant to Australian universities and research.
This is a pattern of behaviour that we have come to expect from this underwhelming eight-year coalition government. In 2014-15 they underspent on TAFE and training by $183 million. They spent $247 million less than promised in 2015-16, $118 million less in 2016-17, $202 million less in 2017-18 and $170 million less in 2018-19. In total that is $920 million less spent than they have promised in TAFE and training since 2014. Is it any wonder that we have 140,000 fewer Australians in apprenticeships now than when the LNP first came to office? By annually cutting funding to universities and to TAFE, the Morrison government are robbing both younger and older Australians of opportunities to retrain, to upskill and to seize job opportunities when they come along.
The skills and training sector can supercharge Australian ingenuity and spur on economic growth, but it seems only a Labor government understands the power of that possibility. Apprenticeships are the path to good jobs in trades. That is why Labor's plan will help more Australians take up the tools. An Albanese Labor government will train thousands of workers by ensuring one in 10 workers on major government projects are Australian apprentices. Labor will invest $10 million in a new energy skills program to tailor skills training to the specific needs of new energy industries like those emerging on the north side. The New Energy Skills Program will work with the states, with industry, with unions, to ensure workers have access to training pathways that are fit for purpose. Labor will pursue a similar approach in other government-supported industries, such as disability care, aged care and child care.
We talk about picking winners and losers in this budget. Future generations are the biggest losers. The Morrison government's Intergenerational report will be released soon and is set to lay bare huge levels of debt over the next 40 years, coupled with a less productive economy. This report should have been released a year ago but was delayed due to the COVID pandemic. But the delay of this report means that, for the past year, while making monumental policy decisions that will shift the trajectory of our economy and our society for decades to come, no-one in power—no-one on that side of the House, no-one in the Morrison government—was giving thought to what intergenerational impact that would have. While young people are the ones who will be saddled with solving this problem and paying off this debt, there is no vision and no plan in this budget to make sure that they are not financially crippled by the task.
This Morrison government seems completely hypnotised—or maybe, at this point, exhausted—by the complexity of intergenerational inequality. If that's the case, they should hand over the reins to someone who cares. Millennials deserve better. Gen Z deserves better. Children deserve better. It is time that Australia had a federal government who is actually on their side instead of a government led by an ad man with no plan or vision for Australian infrastructure, no plan for Australian manufacturing and no plan for Australian jobs. It is for all of us here in this House to be good ancestors and to make decisions that will benefit Australians for decades to come. We will be talking about the COVID pandemic for the next century, as a major change in our economy and in our society. Based on the federal budget that was handed down two weeks ago, there will be nothing to show for it. There will be no nation-building infrastructure. There will be no decades-long progression. There will be no hope or vision for the generations to come, just $100 billion in new spending and absolute pork-barrelling. You should be ashamed.