Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a $1 billion jobs package on Feb 17 aimed at the country’s struggling manufacturing sector.
In a pitch to blue-collar workers, the Prime Minister unveiled ‘A Plan for Australian Jobs’, the policy response to the ‘Smarter Manufacturing for a Smarter Australia’ report prepared by a non-government task force in Aug 2012.
“We can continue to be a manufacturing nation, we can be a nation in which people make their living through blue-collar jobs that aren’t intermittent or insecure or low paid, blue-collar jobs that are highly skilled and highly paid,” Ms Gillard said in a speech at the Boeing manufacturing plant in Melbourne.
The plan includes establishing a new Australian Industry Participation Authority which will oversee requirements for large multi-nationals to give local suppliers the opportunity to bid for tenders for major projects ahead of overseas suppliers.
“When there are projects worth more than $500 million, they will need to have an Australian industry participation plan,” Ms Gillard said.
The plan would demonstrate how major projects can involve Australian businesses and, together with reforms to the anti-dumping system, form the core of the strategy of ‘backing Australian firms to win work at home’, the first in the Government’s three point plan.
The second component of the plan will establish 10 industry innovation precincts at a cost of $504.5 million. Aimed to bring together industry, businesses, government and academia, the investment will develop new products and skills for emerging markets like Asia.
The final policy piece will invest $350 million for small and medium enterprise access to venture capital.
“We will be making sure that there are new ways of businesses that have got a great idea getting access to the finance they need in order to grow Australian jobs and opportunities,” said Ms Gillard.
The Australian Workers Union (AWU) described the plan as a “game changer” with National Secretary Paul Howes welcoming the return of Australian manufacturing to the centre of the political stage.
“Manufacturing still employs over one million Australians. Quite frankly, this sector is too big to fail, and we have to put strategies in place to keep this sector alive,” said Mr Howes.
Meanwhile the Federal Opposition was a little more critical of the plan. In an interview with the ABC, opposition industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella labelled the announcement a “bitter disappointment”.
“The Government needs to look at the things that are slugging manufacturing, and on top of the list is the carbon tax.”