Manufacturing Jobs

Legislative Council - 22 August 2019

The Hon. JOHN GRAHAM (11:27): I speak to this excellent motion, a very timely motion, from the Hon. Penny Sharpe. This is a very specific resolution about manufacturing jobs but I do want to briefly respond to the Minister's comments about the Government's broad jobs performance. The Minister puts on a good show in the House, talking up the Government's jobs record, but never in context though. New South Wales is doing well with jobs historically as compared to the last four decades, but that is true around the world in developed economies. That is happening in 22 of 26 OECD countries. They are already at these record lows. Many of them have lower unemployment rates than we have in New South Wales—places like Japan or the United States. That is because the nature of—

[Government members interjected.]

The ASSISTANT PRESIDENT (The Hon. Shaoquett Moselmane): Order! Rather than making interjections, members should save their contributions for the time when they have the opportunity to speak in the debate. Otherwise I ask members to afford the member the courtesy to speak and be heard in silence.

The Hon. JOHN GRAHAM: The context was missing. The figures that the Minister quoted include the fact that regional jobs are up—good news. That is just in the past year of course. He does not talk about the past eight years and I can tell you why. Because in the census statistics—the most reliable statistics we have on jobs in New South Wales—this is what was going on over the five-year period between two censuses: jobs in Sydney were up 342,000 but what was going on with jobs in the bush? They were not up at all but down 17,000. That is the record of this Government. That is why the Minister keeps talking about the last year. That is the overall jobs record, but this motion is very specific. It is about manufacturing jobs. The record there is clear: 67,000 manufacturing jobs gone over the last eight years. That was not addressed by the Minister at all. I agree with the comments that have been made about some of the things the Government could do to turn around that performance in manufacturing jobs, to keep some of those jobs here and to grow them.

Firstly, the Government could spend what it promised to spend on the region. When 30 per cent of the money is promised from Restart NSW but according to the Auditor-General only 18.5 per cent is spent, there is a problem. Of course jobs are not growing in the region. The Government could not run a wrecking ball through TAFE, down $140 million as the Hon. Penny Sharpe said. The Government could coordinate better with the university sector. I thank the former NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Mary O'Kane for the excellent work that she did over a long period of time. She is in another role now. The Government has been absent from this space.

I agree with the comments that have been made about energy. I support, and I understand the Opposition will be supporting the amendment by the honourable member. The issue here is there is no energy plan in New South Wales. I agree with the comments of Mr Justin Field, who drew attention to the gas market in particular. It is incredible that we are on track to be the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas [LNG], overtaking Qatar in what is a relatively new international market. If you rewind a number of decades, there was not an international gas market. There is now. It is forming. What is New South Wales doing? We are importing gas and setting up import terminals. It is quite remarkable historically. What else could the Government do? The Government could plan specifically for manufacturing jobs. That is what the Premier would have seen when she went to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is producing things like the United Kingdom Foresight report into the future of manufacturing. We do not have a similar plan in New South Wales for manufacturing.

I agree with the comments made by the Hon. Penny Sharpe about the pipeline of investment producing skills and the Minister referred to that also. In recent weeks the building standards committee heard concerning evidence about the practice on sites, including some of the government sites the Minister was referring to, where subcontractors are advertising for unlicensed electricians. The evidence that was put to the committee will be tested but, on the face of it, it was very concerning. That is a problem with this pipeline of infrastructure. Things like the restrictions on the Newcastle port are holding back the State. I refer to reports that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission [ACCC] is taking on the New South Wales Government directly. It has been added as a respondent to the court case in what was described this morning in theNewcastle Herald as a sensational development in the case. The Government will now have to defend the deal it has done in relation to the Newcastle port.

Six actions could be taken, none of which is happening in the State. I note the Minister's comments about the aerotropolis. This is a massive opportunity in Sydney to reshape manufacturing jobs in the city. I hope the high hopes that the Minister has outlined for the memoranda of understanding [MOU] that have been collected while the Premier has been touring Britain come to pass. On the face of it, the Premier has promised to make New South Wales the manufacturing capital of Australia. When I look at these MOUs, I see what a company such as BAE, to select one of the four the Minister has talked about, has committed to. The company has the right to explore participating in the campus surrounding the airport. There are no jobs in that at the moment. The right to explore participating; this is a very weak piece of paper. I hope there are more specifics behind these commitments.

There is much more to be done. This is the only government I have ever seen with a target for outsourcing jobs to other countries. I am referring here to the Roads and Maritime Services [RMS] project and the secret tender documents which were revealed, which contained a minimum target of 20 per cent of jobs to be moved offshore in the first year and 30 per cent in the second year. These are not productivity targets. These are not "Let us do the job better and if that involves some offshore jobs, that is understood". This is not about getting value for New South Wales consumers. It is not about productivity, not about price. This is a flat-out target to send jobs overseas. I have never seen it before. That is one thing the Government should stop doing. There would be a lot more manufacturing jobs in this State if the Government turned around that sort of behaviour.