ABC WIDE BAY WITH DAVID DOWSETT
FRIDAY, 9 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECT: National Rail Manufacturing Plan.
DAVID DOWSETT, HOST: Catherine King, good morning.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Good to be with you David.
DOWSETT: Talk me through this plan, what sort of manufacturing is Labor wanting to bring home?
KING: Well, what we’ve seen over the last decade and more is the real demise of railway manufacturing here in this country. I know you’ve got the proud factory there in Maryborough, I’ve got one in my own hometown of Ballarat, over 150 years of a really skilled workforce, building, refitting, engineering trains. What we do each year is we spend billions and billions of dollars on rail infrastructure, yet there’s no coordinated plan to try and ensure there’s a pipeline of procurement for railway carriages or railway tracklaying that actually benefits Australian jobs. One of the issues that we constantly hear about from the workforce and from the businesses is that they need certainty of a pipeline of carriageway procurement across the country that allows them to continue this work right the way through. So, what Labor wants to do is ensure that the federal investment we put in things like Inland Rail, Cross River Rail, Melbourne Metro, Metronet in Western Australia, that there’s actually broader benefits than just building the transport system. We want to keep work in rail manufacturing here. How we’ll go about doing that is that first we need to have a national audit of the fit for purpose of passenger rail trains across the country and an idea about where the plans are for improvement and a coordinated effort around procurement. Also states working with the federal government, if they’re getting billions of dollars in federal funding, to actually guarantee that those carriages and the procurement of the laying of the track will benefit Australian workers. So, that’s really what the plans about, getting a better coordinated effort, doing an audit of passenger rail, and then using the leverage of Commonwealth funding to ensure that we keep that work here in Australia.
DOWSETT: What would this plan mean, for regions like the Fraser Coast?
KING: Well, it will mean that you’ll be able to continue to have fantastic workers who are so incredibly skilled at building, maintaining and engineering trains in this country and here in your region and people will be able to continue to live in their area and get high paying, good manufacturing jobs. We’re really proud of our manufacturing workshops in Ballarat, and I know Maryborough is exactly the same. So, we want to keep those jobs here in Australia and we want to grow those jobs here in Australia. So that’s what it will mean. All up we estimate it will be about 659 full time jobs created to create a rollingstock export industry and to boost Australia’s GDP by about $5 billion just through this plan alone.
DOWSETT: So total cost for this, what are we looking at there?
KING: It’s a very small amount of money. We haven’t, you know, we haven’t put forward all our plans, but it’s a small amount of money because it’s an administrative feature within the Department of Industry. So, it’s not a lot of money. But obviously the procurement of railway, trains, projects like Cross River Rail and Inland Rail are billions of dollars that is already baked into the budget in infrastructure funding.
DOWSETT: So, how much more would that be than what we’re currently paying to manufacture our trains overseas?
KING: Well, a lot less to be honest, because what we’ve seen in recent years is when we bring our trains in from overseas, this was certainly the case, where you had the LNP Newman Government building 75 times in India and then brought them over and they weren’t fit for purpose. Most of what we’re doing in Victoria is the same, refitting x’trapolis trains to actually make them be able to run on our tracks. So it’ll be a lot cheaper, in our view, to actually build them here and build them right the first time rather than trying to retrofit them or spending huge amounts of money lifting our platforms and altering our infrastructure in order to be able to fit trains that are not fit for purpose.
DOWSETT: So, what other measures are involved in the rail manufacturing plan?
KING: Well, as I said there’s the audit of passenger rail. There is also one of the things that this government abolished, which didn’t make any sense to us, is there was one person within the Department of Industry whose job it was to make sure that small to medium enterprises right the way across the country had capability in this space, actually knew when there was a train procurement process underway, wherever it was within states or territories, so that they had every opportunity to bid for work. The government abolished that position 2013. We’ll bring that position back so that there is the opportunity for small and medium enterprises to actually be able to bid for some of the work through train procurement processes.
DOWSETT: For a potential future Labor government, there would be large investment in rail infrastructure?
KING: Absolutely. We think it’s one of the areas where you get a huge bang for your buck. It’s not just about public transport, it’s about our freight task as well. It’s also about connecting regions with each other, both economically and socially. We, you know, obviously our record in government was pretty substantial, there wasn’t a lot of federal investment in rail before we got into office last time. We invested heavily, put the $1 billion down on the Inland Rail project, a huge project study in terms of improving faster rail right the way across the country, and in every election we’ve been committing money to rail. I think it would be fair to say there will be a fair bit of rail in the infrastructure policies of the Albanese opposition going forward into the election.
DOWSETT: Catherine King, thanks very much.
KING: Really good to talk to you.
CATHERINE KING – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC WIDE BAY – FRIDAY, 9 OCTOBER 2020