Doorstop Interview

21 Jan 2021
Maryborough West, QLD
Prime Minister

Robert Nioa, Managing Director NIOA: Thank you very much for coming along. It's my great pleasure to welcome the Prime Minister here today to have a look at the progress that's been made in the construction of this artillery shell forging facility here in Maryborough Queensland. This factory is going to create 100 jobs in a new industry in Maryborough, and it's going to go on for generations. And it will benefit tradespeople and young people as they come through from school and progress in the workforce. It's going to provide economic benefit to this town, as I say, for quite a long time to come. This facility is, has only been made possible because of the support of the Federal Government through the regional growth fund. More broadly, the Federal Government has a very solid defence plan for the sovereign industrial capability priorities where they identify what capabilities are essential for the sovereign protection of our nation. Weapons and ammunition was the number one priority identified within those sovereign capabilities. The Government also implemented a policy around Australian industry capability. So to make sure that this product wasn't just imported, that there was local companies benefiting from the defence contracts. On top of that, this Government put in place a defence export strategy. And that formed,  well that strategy informed us to create a partnership with world leading company Rheinmetall and 50 per cent of the product in this factory is already committed to export customers. The last pillar of government support was the Regional Growth Fund itself, which is a fund set up by the Government to target regional areas that were in need of economic support and particularly in areas of high youth unemployment and high unemployment in general. And this Government has backed Maryborough and has backed us as a company and has done it to the tune of $28.5 million dollars to make sure that this factory is built here in Maryborough and is delivering those jobs. This is a rare occurrence to see a factory like this built. This is the first factory of its kind to be built as a greenfield site since World War Two. What we're undertaking here is very challenging, very difficult. We started the construction at the beginning of the COVID period and we had to quickly realign the plans on how we were going to design the floor layout, the robotics in certain areas, the very complex processes. We can't buy these factories off the shelf. The IP and the design and how this has been done has been created by the incredible team, many of which are here and many of which are in Germany. We've had to work on plans instead of being co-located. We've had to do things separately, but everybody's adapted, I’d like to congratulate the team from Badge who's been overseeing the construction and delivering the construction of the project. It's on time, which has been a fantastic outcome given the constraints. I'd like to congratulate Kirk Architects for their work in making sure this very complex project is being brought to life. I like to welcome our first 10 employees who are here today, and it's the start of the 100 jobs that we had promised and that are happening here in town. So I'd like to give the Prime Minister a token, so we know that we want shovel ready jobs and this one is definitely shovel shovel ready. The Prime Minister was keen to come here early on and COVID disrupted that process but nonetheless, we didn't want you to go without a shovel. So I'd like to thank you very much for your support. Also, I think it's a great example of the support that you’ve been able to engender from both state and local governments as well, who’ve got in behind and supported you as well on this project. So we're really looking forward to the next phase, the commencement of the fit out of the forging facility and the heavy equipment and the employing of the remainder of that position. So thank you very much.

Prime Minister: Thank you very much. Well, look, thank you very much, and it's wonderful to be here with you, and can I congratulate everybody that's been involved in this project but can I particularly congratulate you Llew. Llew O’Brien is just a very hardworking member for his electorate. And the number of times he and I've spoken about how we can create jobs, particularly here in Queensland and particularly here around Maryborough especially, you know, with youth unemployment and the challenge of getting young people to jobs can be a big challenge. And so the brainchild of the program, which has delivered almost $30 million dollars to this project, really came from those discussions and advocacy that Llew has always led. You know, we're making things in Australia, we're making things in Queensland, we're making things in Maryborough. And that means we're making jobs, and making jobs through our programs is really how we come out of the COVID-19 recession and how we build for the future with the economic recovery plan, some 50,000 additional jobs, 50,000 more jobs in December. You know, the vast majority of those, almost all of them were for women in this most recent month, and that's great to see. The majority were permanent jobs in this most recent month. We've seen labour force participation rise again to very high levels, we've seen the underemployment rate fall, we've seen the number of working hours increase and all that says that Australia is working its way out of the COVID-19 recession. And the way we're doing that is everybody pulling together, everybody doing what they need to do. And I particularly want to congratulate the team here for pushing through throughout 2020. And the project started in March and they haven't skipped a beat, had a few issues to deal with but they sorted them working together. Whether it was the building company, the architects, Rheinmetall, the whole crew, working together to overcome those problems and get this done. And so they're on track and by about April this year they’ll have it done and they'll move into the next phase. 

I was at the oil production facility earlier today, and we were talking there about our gas plan. And I want to come back to that because our manufacturing plan is built on three key things. The first one is to get the fundamentals right. We've got to get lower energy costs. You've got to get your skills right. You've got to get your taxes low. You've got to ensure that your industrial arrangements are purpose built for the sort of things you're going to do. You've got to get those fundamentals right. That's the first plank of our manufacturing plan. The second thing is, you've got to have focus and priorities and Defence Manufacturing is one of Australia's priorities. Why? Because we're really, really good at it and you can see that here, you can see it. We are building the Boxers up at Rheinmetall in Ipswich, you can see it all over the country where defence manufacturing is becoming something that Australians have been well known for. We’re smart at it, we’re good at it. We work well with partners from overseas and we get it done on the ground. That's why it's a priority. That's why we're investing more. And that works together with the more than 2 per cent of our total size of our economy that we're investing in defence. And that reinforces the priority we have. The third part of our manufacturing plan is about those critical sovereign supply chains. Those critical sovereign capabilities we have to have in manufacturing. And that means what we're doing here, right here. We've got to be able to do what we're doing here with these munitions, in Australia. We can't be relying on other places for that to happen. The last year has taught us more than anything that sovereign reliability for manufacturing in critical areas like this is things we need to do here. And that's what's happening. And so that's why I was really pleased to come here today Llew, because it brought all that together, in this project. So I look forward to coming back. I look forward to seeing the progress that is going to be here. But most of all, Llew I want to thank you and the whole team. The whole team, for the great job you've done, getting the project to this level, but without your advocacy Llew we wouldn’t be standing here mate so well done. It's great to see things being made in Maryborough.

Llew O’Brien MP: Thanks PM. Thanks so much, thanks Rob for your introduction and tour of the facility, it's really my great pleasure to welcome the Prime Minister here to Maryborough. There is probably no greater friend to Wide Bay in Canberra, aside from myself, than the Prime Minister. We have had discussions about the direction that Wide Bay needs to head. And these are discussions that happened before COVID, that involve things like the billion dollar Gympie bypass, the Cooroy to Curra bypass. It was when I sat down with the Prime Minister as then Treasurer, we put the case forward, before that Budget it was delivered. He's a man that understands how this, what this electorate needs. This facility is just a great boost for Maryborough. It's a great boost for the economy, a great boost for employment. But what I said to the Prime Minister when we were down in that forge pit there, what really strikes in my mind is that this is the technology that will keep our diggers safe. And it's these artillery shells that will go further and more accurately. And the reality is we need to keep our diggers safe, we know no one wants to go to war. No one wants these to be used in anger. But as a nation, we need to have the best technology to keep our Australian diggers safe and that's what we're doing here. So I appreciate everything you've done today Rob. As the Prime Minister said, our sovereign manufacturing has never been brought out into the forefront of our mind more than in the last 12 months. We have reliable, good international friends we trade with. But at the end of the day, when you have a global pandemic, when you have a major incident the only country you can really, really rely on is your own country. And for us, we need to secure our sovereign manufacturing capability and that's what the Morrison government is doing here. So thank you very much.

Prime Minister: Thanks Llew, thank you for everything Rob. Very good.

Journalist: How important- sorry just move a bit closer-

Prime Minister: Yeah sure, we covered the national press conference earlier in the day, so happy to take some local questions.

Journalist: Fantastic. How crucial do you see this facility in Australia's overall defence?

Prime Minister: Well I think that the point that Llew just made, I thought was a very important one. I mean, this fits as part of a much bigger plan. No government since the Second World War has invested more in Australia's defence capability than this Government, and that has its strategic defence objectives. But we just didn't pursue that, we saw this as an opportunity by scaling up again to more than, to 2 per cent of GDP, which we hit ahead of target, and now we'll go beyond that. That's now floor, not a ceiling. But we also took the decision that in making such significant investments on behalf of the Australian people that we were going to build more than our defence capability. We were going to build our manufacturing capability because we've seen how that's worked in other countries where defence industries have not just provided the goods for their defence forces, but they’ve become important export markets, they’ve could become important hubs for technology and design, research, and science and the things that are learnt in how you make one of those, can be applied to how you make a whole bunch of other stuff. And then the skills that are developed not just here and working in a plant like this, but the skills that are picked up with working with partners from overseas, with Rheinmetall partners and the work that they are doing and the and the transfer of skills and technology and knowledge that comes through those partnerships, also critically important. So this sits- what we're seeing here, sits at the heart of what the Government's strategy is. To keep Australia safe, but also to get Australians into jobs and to make sure that we have a highly competitive, advanced manufacturing industry. 

Journalist: PM just one from Cairns from our North Queensland bureau, Labor fears North Queensland isn’t prepared for a natural disaster because of a lack of funding. Do you agree with that? 

Prime Minister: Well, that's not the assessment that has been provided to me by our authorities or indeed by the Queensland Government. And we know that in Queensland, and particularly this time of the year, they're no stranger to significant weather events whether they be cyclones or bushfires or floods. And we've been through all those things and on each occasion, Australians have been equal, I think, to the task and I think the authorities, having been through all of those things with Queenslanders in the last couple of years, I think the authorities and the community response has been very strong. Now as we came into this season. As always, we went through those plans. We looked at all the weather information that was there, we actually had to pull ADF people off what was then COVID assist, and make sure that they are available for preparing for any response that we might have to provide to support the State Government in what might happen with any potential disaster situation be it in Queensland or, frankly, anywhere else. And so those plans were put in place. They were put in place months ago and funding to support those, the planning. So that's what we've been doing. Hopefully it's not called upon, but I can tell you, if it is called upon, the federal resources are ready to go. OK, thanks very much. Oh yeah, sure.

Journalist: Why is it important to bring the recruitment of national defence industries such as this to regional centres like Maryborough?

Prime Minister: Jobs, jobs, jobs, that's why. That's why. And I was just saying, I think I was saying to you Rob on the way down, I’ve been to a lot of these places now that are the product of the Government's big investments in advanced manufacturing and defence industries, and so many of them are in regional areas, and there's a range of reasons for that. One is the footprint of this site proves it, and the way that you can develop a facility like this in the sort of greenfields type of infrastructure that you need to do something as sophisticated as this. So I think that's important. I think regional communities around the country have a lot to offer in being able to host this type of a project. Now, that's not to say it doesn't happen in major cities as well, it does. I've visited facilities in south western Sydney and places like that. They tend to be often, sometimes a lot smaller, they’re doing very high tech type things, the componentry that goes in particular weapons systems and all that sort of stuff, but, you know, if you need a forger, the size of Hercules as what's going to be down there, then this is a great place to put it. And the jobs will come. Thanks, cheers.