By Denham Sadler
Labor has successfully launched a Senate inquiry into Australia’s domestic advanced manufacturing capability, as support for the sector and sovereign capability shape up to be an election issue.
Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching moved a motion in the Senate on Thursday morning calling for the Economics References Committee to conduct an inquiry into opportunities for advancing domestic manufacturing.
The motion was passed by the Senate, with the committee set to report by 24 November.
The inquiry will be looking into Australia’s existing and emerging manufacturing industry, and the role of governments in supporting it. It will be tasked with looking at making the local manufacturing sector more competitive globally and successful examples overseas that may be applicable in Australia.
The inquiry will also look at the role of research and development in sustaining and developing manufacturing, what education and training is required to reskill the sector, how developing local supply chains provides strategic benefits and the “importance of providing reliable, clean and cheap energy for Australian manufacturing”.
Manufacturing will be an issue at the next federal election, likely to be held early next year.
The federal government has positioned the sector at the centre of its COVID-19 economic recovery strategy, with the $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy. This includes the $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative, which offers grants to six key manufacturing priority areas.
Labor has claimed this fund will be used politically in the lead up to the next election following revelations Scott Morrison will have final say on the grant applications. The government this week rejected a Senate order to produce the departmental briefing documents it was provided about the first round of these grants.
The Opposition has attempted to one-up the government on the issue, pitching a $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund if it takes office following the election. The fund would see Labor partnering with the private sector to support the commercialisation of innovation and help existing industries bring manufacturing back onshore.
The fund would dish out loans, equity injections, co-investments and lending guarantees, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese outlined earlier this year.
This story first appeared in Innovation Aus.
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