A Senate inquiry report has recommended a National Rail Manufacturing Industry Plan to help Australia’s ailing rail manufacturing sector secure its share of an estimated $46 billion investment over the next decade.
Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon said the report has huge implications for Newcastle, which is home to one of the largest rail manufacturing hubs in the country.
“Rail manufacturing has long been an important employer and contributor to the local economy, but now it’s struggling to keeps its head above water,” Ms Claydon said.
“When the committee held hearings in Newcastle, local manufacturer Lovell’s testified that rail manufacturing had dropped from 60 per cent of its workload five years ago to thirty per cent in the last 12 months alone.”
Ms Claydon said the report also called for a complementary National Rail Procurement Strategy to coordinate the procurement contracts of the states and territories and to maximise local content in the manufacture of passenger, freight and light rail rolling stock.
“Australia’s state-based rail manufacturing sector is fragmented and states are not required to coordinate or benchmark their procurement efforts for rail and rolling stock,” Ms Claydon said.
The Strategy should coordinate the procurement contracts of the states and territories, consistent with international trade obligations. It would allow for the development of capabilities in small and medium-sized enterprises, including:
- Maximising local content in the manufacture of passenger, freight and light rail rolling stock.
- Ensuring consistency with the new Commonwealth Procurement Rules by considering whole of life costs, quality, innovation and environmental sustainability.
- Requiring contractors to implement training programs for apprentices and engineering cadets.
- Developing and managing supply chains.
- Harmonising safety standards.
Ms Claydon laid much of the blame for the industry’s decline on state and federal Liberal Governments.
“This report should be a wake-up call for the State and Federal Liberal Governments, which have seemed intent on driving Australian manufacturing into the ground,” Ms Claydon said.
“It’s shameful the New South Wales Government has awarded lucrative contracts to offshore companies, rather than investing in our world-class Australian product.
“The Turnbull Government urgently needs to take a leadership role and work with states on a plan to coordinate state rail projects, maximise work for Australian companies and create Australian jobs.”