I rise to support Mr Somyurek’s motion and, unlike the last two government speakers, speak to the motion.
I will be dealing with the Victorian Industry Participation Policy (VIPP). I will talk about Keppel Prince — a fantastic company that operates within my electorate — and I will also talk about support for local employment, local manufacturing and local jobs, the renewable energy target, the State of Steel report and how this opposition sees local manufacturing being supported by government.
To date the establishment of the VIPP in 2001 has led to over $1 billion of investment in import replacement, which means orders for local industry that would otherwise have gone overseas.
Since its establishment it has been instrumental in stimulating the state’s economy through job creation and local industry support. The VIPP strategic projects concept was introduced on 1 July 2009 by the Brumby Labor government to support local content and local jobs.
It was introduced because the Brumby Labor government understood the need to support local manufacturing and the local economy.
That is why, under the Brumby Labor government, Victoria was known as the jobs capital of Australia. It was seen as the engine room for manufacturing and also as the engine room of a healthy economy. Under the Napthine government we now have one of the highest levels of unemployment in the country, and our major infrastructure projects have dried up.
As I understand it, in terms of forward estimates for the next three years and government infrastructure spend, we are not only behind New South Wales but also behind Queensland, Western Australia and even South Australia.
This is the first time I can recall that we have been in a situation like that. It means there is no plan, no vision, no jobs and very little future not only for those currently in the workforce but also for young people hoping to enter the workforce.
When you have conversations with counterparts in other state jurisdictions, there is little surprise that we are considered a laughing stock compared to what other governments, regardless of their political colour, are doing in infrastructure spend.
Whilst the evidence is clear, the Premier is trying to talk up local support for local jobs. But the government’s actions speak much louder than its words.
This motion goes right to the heart of what the Premier thinks of supporting local jobs. In his electorate of South-West Coast he has demonstrated very clearly to each and every worker at Keppel Prince how much he supports local jobs, local manufacturing and local materials.
He showed them by denying a Victorian-based local manufacturer the opportunity to stimulate the local economy as well as provide each employee with the confidence that there will be a job for them to support their families in Portland.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure and opportunity of visiting Keppel Prince on the outskirts of Portland and to meet with Steve Garner, the general manager of the company.
For those who do not know Steve Garner, he is a major leader in the local manufacturing industry, but he is also a very significant leader in the renewable energy manufacturing sector.
I say to those opposite who have tried to trash the credentials of Labor during the debate that, if they do not want to listen to Labor, they should at least listen to the people who run the businesses in local electorates.
People like Steve Garner are standing up and saying that, if things are not changed in a whole range of ways, there will be consequences for his company, his workers and the local economy of Portland.
Mr Ramsay interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — Listen to business on this issue, Mr Ramsay, unlike on everything else.
Mr Ramsay interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — You will get your chance to speak, Mr Ramsay.
When it became public that Keppel Prince did not win the Webb Dock expansion project, it was recorded in the media. It was not just in the Portland Observer and the Warrnambool Standard; there was also major coverage in the Age.
Headlines included ‘Jobs blow on loss of Webb Dock work’ and ‘Steel jobs could go — Keppel Prince misses out‘. One article states:
Mr Garner said there were ‘sad times ahead’ and was surprised the Victorian government’s usual procurement rules for major projects did not apply in the dock expansion.
Mr Garner is quoted as going on to say:
It’s a government project and yet they buy all these jobs overseas and for us it’s certainly disappointing.
The journalist, Ben Schneiders, tried to get a comment from the Premier, who as I mentioned is the local member for South-West Coast. The article states:
A spokesman for Dr Napthine did not respond to a request for comment.
Does that not say a lot? The Premier, when a major company in his electorate is indicating that there are some sad times ahead, cannot even muster a comment in response to a journalist’s request.
In addition to this, Keppel Prince is a company that is also very anxious about what it is hearing coming out of Canberra in relation to the renewable energy target (RET).
It is a well-known fact in Portland and in the south-west that if the RET is not continued in its current form, Keppel Prince will also have a compounding problem in terms of its continued operations.
However, if good policy is put in place, Keppel Prince could very well be in a position to employ a further 150 people.
That is not speculation; that is direct comment, an outcome from the meeting I had in Portland on 3 June. Keppel Prince is one of the largest employers in Portland, the other being Alcoa.
If there is a negative impact on that company, whether that be due to being knocked back as a local manufacturer on a government project or facing changes to the RET, there will also be significant impacts on the economy of Portland and the wider electorate.
Moving on to the State of Steel report, steel generates major macroeconomic benefits, including $29 billion of economic activity nationally, and employs over 106 000 people along the entire steel industry supply chain.
In Victoria over 25 000 full-time jobs are supported by the steel industry, and for every $1 million expended along the local steel supply chain at least seven full-time jobs are supported.
On the supply side these include jobs in iron smelting, steel manufacturing, casting and forging, steel pipe and tube manufacturing, structural steel fabrication, roll-forming and sheet metal fabrication, as well as spring and wire product manufacturing.
It is a very diverse industry that feeds components to a variety of other industries.
The sector has the capability to supply the local steel needs of a range of industries and projects, including infrastructure, major transport projects and defence activities, as well as the state’s local steel needs.
That is true also of Keppel Prince, which is a company that can produce a wide variety of product across a range of industries. We heard from the previous Labor speaker, Cesar Melhem, that it has also made huge platforms for oil and gas production offshore.
I know for a fact that it is also undertaking the acquisition of massive equipment for the production of wave energy just off the port of Portland. This is amazing and almost a world first for Australia, as well as being a very innovative project.
The company is also involved in wheat farming and a whole range of other activities, so at the very least we should be supporting those industries that have shown that they can do what is required and that they have the capacity and capability to tender for and win contracts under the specifications that are required.
It is an absolute insult to a company that is so successful and flexible in the way it goes about its business to have its tender quashed and another organisation offshore deemed to be better.
It is a well-known fact that it is more expensive to produce steel in Australia than in China and Korea whilst the Australian dollar is high.
At present the dollar is climbing into the mid-90 cents again against the US dollar, and therefore this is the most important time for governments to assist local manufacturers by employing them to do the work they are more than capable of doing.
The Napthine government believes it has no real part to play in job creation and job retention.
In fact Mr David O’Brien in his contribution today said that he does not support a government contribution to industry because that would distort the market.
That assumes that the market starts with an even playing field. It does not. Mr O’Brien’s comments also do not take into account that jobs, the social fabric and the local economy are affected by governments not supporting local industry, local manufacturing and the local economy.
The Victorian Industry Participation Policy is just one example of how government can play a significant role in creating and retaining jobs, but that only works if the government actually uses the policy, and it only works if the government is committed to local jobs for local people.
I believe that we have a situation here where the Liberal Party, state and federal, does little for local manufacturing.
You only have to look at the wind farm policies of this government.
You only have to look at what happened with local procurement with the Webb Dock redevelopment. And we all know what is going to happen in terms of the outcome of the RET review. All these things amount to three very important black marks against local manufacturing and local jobs.
Victorians have seen time and again over the last three and a half years that this government is simply not interested in supporting local jobs.
This afternoon I call on all members to support the parliamentary inquiry outlined in this motion by voting for Mr Somyurek’s motion.