Speech to CEDA Adelaide

19 Feb 2016 Speech

Speech to CEDA Adelaide
19 February 2016

It’sa great pleasure to be here. I would like to acknowledge my former parliamentary colleague and Speaker Professor Stephen Martin. He was the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the very early part of my career and unfortunately he set the pattern for me being thrown out of the chamber on a very regular basis, but I don’t hold it against him. Until recently, I held the record for being thrown out of the Parliament more than anybody else, Anthony Albanese is the second, but happily Nick Champion has now passed my record from here in South Australia.

I would also like to recognise Michael Blythe, the Chief Economist of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Craig Lockhart who just spoke to us from Babcock International, Dr Leanna Read who’s the Chief Scientist here in South Australia and I think Miriam Silva might be here. She’s the CEDA State President. From what I understand she has a family illness today so she may or may not be here. But if she’s here, I’d like to acknowledge her.

It’s a great pleasure to be here. It has been said that this is the most exciting time to be an Australian and that’s because the world is rapidly developing the scientific and technological breakthroughs that will transform every aspect of our lives. Never has there been a better time for Australians to capitalise on their ideas and the Australian Government wants to help them to do so. Happily, my portfolio is at the forefront of the Government’s very ambitious agenda. We want nothing less than to re-invent the Australian economy to create high-wage jobs and opportunities.

I’ll speak to the National Innovation and Science Agenda in a moment, but first I want to talk about what is already happening in my portfolio to build on jobs and growth in Australia and in South Australia. Australia has been one of the stellar performers in the OECD, particularly over the last 10 years with GDP growth well above the average of the OECD. While Australia’s GDP growth is strong compared to the OECD average, Treasury recently revised down Australia’s GDP growth to 2.75 per cent over the forward estimates from the initial forecast of 3.5 per cent.

To maintain or exceed this projection, future growth needs to come from other areas of the economy as commodity prices retreat and global expectations are subdued. As the Member for the South Australian seat of Sturt, as you would all know, I am closely observing the impacts of these global economic changes. And I am pleased to say the Government has wasted no time in acting and delivering a practical policy response. For example, the impending closure of Holden and their production in Melbourne has prompted the $160 million Growth Fund for South Australia and Victoria, with the governments of Victoria and South Australia and Toyota and Holden making a contribution, it’s meant that we’ve been able to help with the adjustment of people and regions and businesses that are most affected.

We also have initiated the Automotive Diversification Programme, one part of the fund, and it’s helping agile and innovative firms in the automotive supply chain to diversify into new products and new markets. So far it’s assisted 31 such projects, over half of which are here in South Australia, that will stimulate almost $50 million more in investment in Australian manufacturing. It’s helped firms like Bowen Plastics – Blown Plastics, I should say, at Elizabeth who have been manufacturing air induction ducts for General Motors at Elizabeth since 2004. We’re giving more than $830,000 from this programme that has helped them deliver a $1.8 million extra investment in new machinery so they can manufacture export packaging for the consumer goods industry.

Cutler Brands is another component manufacturer here in South Australia that has accessed the programme to support a $2.1 million investment. This is a new high speed, multi-colour direct printing and plastic shrink sleeve production line that manufactures for the food, beverage and cosmetics market. For example, through both the Automotive Diversification Programme and the Next Generation Manufacturing Programme, it is supporting the unique aseptic packaging being introduced by Mexican Express, here in Dudley Park. It’s the first packaging plant of its type in Australia. Their product allows liquid food to be packed in a shelf-stable format without the need for preservatives, yielding longer shelf life, less wastage and easy storage and disposal.

Opportunities such as these abound here in South Australia, and indeed in Australia. Food and wine, defence, energy, international education, tourism and, I’m pleased to say, the automotive industry, all these sectors are brimming with opportunities. As always, business innovation and productivity gains are necessary to taking them up and I’m sure you would like to hear an update on one such opportunity embodied in discussions with Belgium’s Punch Corporation about using GM Holden’s Elizabeth plant.

I’m sure it goes without saying that we’d all like to see this happen. The company does have a track record of revitalising automotive assembly plants, but while I am optimistic, we also need to be realistic. As with so many innovative opportunities, there is a long way to go and much work to be done before anyone can be ready to sign a deal. Signs are promising, and I am encouraging Punch and General Motors to work through the issues and, in fact I’m meeting next week with the chairman and managing director of General Motors Holden here in Australia, Mark Bernhard, in Canberra.

They inevitably include the competitive constraints that our industries face in attracting business and foreign investment to Australia. It highlights that the Australian economy is not quarantined from the structural and technological changes in the global economy, so we must focus on what we can control, productivity, competitiveness and innovation. The department’s annual Innovation System Report underscores the importance of an innovative culture. Innovative firms are more competitive, more able to capture increased market share and more likely to increase employment.

So I would like to touch today on the National Innovation and Science Agenda. Last year when the Prime Minister urged me to release my inner revolutionary, it was an invitation to lead a bold new approach to innovation. The first step in this was the National Innovation and Science Agenda, which he and I jointly released in December. It’s a blueprint to build a more innovative and entrepreneurial Australia. It positions us to join other nations like Singapore and South Korea and Israel at the leading edge of global innovation nations.

As the Prime Minister said at its launch, we’ve had all manners of booms in Australia, and now we need a new boom: the ideas boom. Energetically and courageously embraced, it can be a boom without end, capable of sustaining us indefinitely. The agenda recognises the revolution in technology and knowledge that is transforming all aspects of our lives, at home and in industry. It looks to people, knowledge, teamwork, and to courage in how we embrace risk to get things going. It recognises that innovation is important to every sector of the economy, and innovation is what will keep us competitive.

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