Senator for Western Australia
By Louise Pratt
03 September 2020
We are in the grip of a jobs crisis and, as we have known for a while and as the statistics and economic figures showed today, we are in a recession. As debates in the parliament have shown today, the Morrison government does not have a jobs plan for our nation. We saw from this government a failure to support manufacturing jobs before the crisis and we still see a government that isn't grabbing the opportunities it should, like a coordinated procurement plan as part of a national plan for rail—something the coalition has rejected before.
Just last week, the Liberal Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, said her state and the nation were 'no good' at building trains. This outrageous statement is simply not true. Rail manufacturing happens in many places across Australia, including in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. These places not only build trains but also fix imported railcars bought by Liberal governments, like in the case of the Maryborough facility in Queensland, where they are fixing rolling stock purchased by the Newman Liberal government from overseas that was found not to be fit for purpose.
We've seen during the course of COVID the Liberal Party talking a big game on manufacturing but delivering little more than lip service. We've seen Scott Morrison, our Prime Minister, talking up manufacturing, but, after seven years in government, we are yet to see a plan for Australian manufacturing. As we've debated and as is recognised, COVID-19 has highlighted how sensitive we are to global supply chains. As unemployment is rising, particularly in regional areas, now more than ever, we need a national plan for manufacturing that includes rail.
Rail in our nation contributes $26 billion to the national economy. It supports thousands of jobs and hundreds of small and medium enterprises. But the efforts that we undertake as a nation are dissipated by a fragmented approach to rail procurement, investment and construction, regulated by eight different governments. We have many millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, of Commonwealth funds being injected into state rail projects. With so many projects happening around the country, should we not have a national rail plan?
In Western Australia alone, 246 new items of rolling stock will be required for the state's Metronet project. This stock will service new lines and replace the ageing, existing A-class rolling stock. Happily, I'm proud to say, the Mark McGowan Labor government, unlike the Liberal Berejiklian government, has embraced Australian-made rail. The Western Australian government is investing in constructing a new rail manufacturing facility in Bellevue, near the historic home of rail manufacturing. This is near the old Western Australian government rail facility at Midland, which was sadly shut down decades ago by the Court Liberal government. Here we will see rolling stock manufactured in WA and it is set to come in under budget by $347 million. I say that this is not bad for a country that's supposedly not good at building trains. As a recession is officially forecast, when regional economies are shrinking and jobs are drying up, it's time to encourage job growth in our regions and in different sectors—region by region and sector by sector.
Authorised by L. Pratt, 183 Great Eastern Highway, Belmont, WA 6104