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Time to work smarter with Future Made in Australia

Our regions and workers need to benefit from the $22.7 billion Future Made in Australia package, which could be the biggest industrial policy shift we’re likely to see in our lifetime.

Our regions and workers need to benefit from the $22.7 billion Future Made in Australia package, which could be the biggest industrial policy shift we’re likely to see in our lifetime. Photo: AAP

For the past three years the union I lead has been campaigning unapologetically for things to be made in Australia again.

The Covid pandemic created an experience for all of us where we have a wave of public support to make this happen.

The federal budget on Tuesday night delivered the biggest industrial policy shift we’re likely to see in our lifetime.

The $22.7 billion Future Made in Australia package is a lot of money, even if it’s spread over 10 years, and it needs a lot of work.

Firstly, we should take a moment to realise that we have moved from ‘if’ we will make things here, to ‘how’ we will make things here.

Energy boost

The Albanese government’s budget announcement is timely for those workers across our energy regions, who have worked to power our economy for generations.

They hear about closure dates of coal-fired power stations, but nothing on the dates of new factories.

Big businesses are shifting their investments to protect their profits. The reality is we are in a global race for the jobs of the future.

And now we have the weight of public support to help us win.

But to get this right and to be a success, we need the right voices at the table.

We need a plan to reindustrialise Australia where our regions and workers also benefit.

United action

The biggest piece of the puzzle in Future Made in Australia is how we bring industry, unions and government together to build the social licence around action on climate change to align with job creation.

This will allow us to be bolder in our ambition and to bring working-class communities with us.

There is the more difficult discussion around setting superior wages and working conditions to attract workers to these new and emerging industries. This is where workers’ voices really matter.

This is why we are calling on the Prime Minister to establish a green manufacturing competitiveness council made up of industry, union and government representatives.

We’re more optimistic than ever, that we can become a strong, modern and green manufacturing economy, shifting Australia up the value chain and creating hundreds of thousands of high-skill and high-wage unionised jobs now, and for generations to come.

In the process, we can also shore up our sovereign capability and secure our economic future.

We cannot take our immense supplies of minerals and our natural resources for granted, nor trade away and deny local workers the immense opportunity before us.

Opportunity knocks

The AMWU’s research shows there are significant opportunities in major renewable technologies such as battery cells, electric heavy vehicles, solar panel production, offshore and onshore wind power and high-voltage cables for renewable energy transmission.

We can also capture key points within the supply chains of each of these technologies, including research and development, critical minerals processing, local manufacturing, logistics and end-of-life recycling.

Australia is a clever country. We come up with smart ideas in research and development but drop the ball when it comes to turning those ideas and manufacturing them into products here.

We end up importing them, as opposed to exporting them.

We could do things smarter. This is why a Future Made in Australia really matters.

We can be a world-competitive green manufacturing powerhouse and export to the world.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and leverage the natural advantages that our country has with necessary speed. This is real climate action.

Steve Murphy is National Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union

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