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The federal opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, will establish a $15bn reconstruction fund aimed at job creation if Labor wins government, saying Australia must be a country “that makes things”.
Setting up a contest with the Coalition over the post-pandemic recovery, Albanese will tell the party’s national conference in Sydney on Tuesday that the new fund will help revive the diminishing manufacturing sector which was already struggling before the Covid-19 downturn.
The number of Australians currently employed in manufacturing is the lowest on record, with the sector accounting for just 6.7% of all jobs in the country, compared to almost 17% in the 1980s. An estimated 50,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost throughout the course of the pandemic.
Albanese will tell delegates from the unions and party branches that the fund will seek to reverse this decline, putting Australia back on a path to “make cars, trains and ships” as part of a manufacturing revival.
“The Covid pandemic has exposed serious deficiencies in Australia’s economy, in particular our ability to manufacture products and be globally competitive when it comes to innovation and technology,” Albanese said.
“Building new industries and boosting our existing industries represents an opportunity for Australia to recover from the Covid pandemic with a stronger economy.”
“If there is anything that Covid has taught us, it is the need for Australia to be a place which makes things – to have our own industrial and manufacturing capabilities, our own sovereign capabilities.”
The fund would be modelled on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, meaning the initial $15bn capital injection would stay off the government balance sheet to be provided through a combination of loans, equity, co-investment and guarantees.
Recipients of the funding would need to return rates above the government borrowing rate, with the intention of funding projects in partnership with the private sector, including superannuation funds.
The new fund would be legislated and governed by an independent board, with the aim being that it would achieve a return to cover borrowing costs, with an expected positive underlying cash impact.
The $10bn Clean Energy Finance Corporation – colloquially known as the “green bank” – was established by the Gillard government in 2012 and has achieved a seven-year rate of return of 4.75%.
The jobs fund is the latest major policy announcement from the federal opposition after he announced a suite of reforms to improve job security in a pledge last month.
In October, he unveiled childcare and energy promises, with the party readying itself for an election this year.
Labor’s draft policy platform, which will be debated this week, also flags using government procurement strategies to drive local manufacturing, saying the party is also committed to strengthening Australian Industry Participation Plans for public and private procurement.
“Good procurement choices should always seek to achieve value for money, which cannot be decided solely by comparing purchase prices. Any sensible procurement decision will take into account the impact of the decision on communities and the broader economy,” the policy document says.
This article first appeared on www.theguardian.com
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