As one of Australia’s largest remaining rail manufacturing hubs, Newcastle stands to reap the benefits of a National Rail Manufacturing Plan announced by Federal Labor today.
Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon said that under a Shorten Labor Government every Federal dollar spent on rail projects would go towards creating local jobs and protecting Australia’s rail manufacturing industry.
“Too often, we’ve seen rail manufacturing contracts go overseas when we have world-class manufacturing capacity right here at home,” Ms Claydon said.
“Under this plan, Commonwealth contributions for rail projects will be linked to objectives like contracts for Australian companies, rather than sending work offshore.”
Ms Claydon said evidence given by stakeholders in Newcastle’s rail manufacturing industry played a significant role in the design of the plan.
“Last year, a Senate hearing in Newcastle made it abundantly clear that the rail manufacturing sector is facing significant challenges. Too much work is going overseas, there are too many peaks and troughs in the workflow and virtually no coordination between states,” Ms Claydon said.
“Local manufacturer Lovell’s testified to the Senate inquiry that rail manufacturing had dropped from 60 per cent of its workload five years ago to 30 per cent in the last 12 months alone.
“Newcastle is home to Australia’s last manufacturer of rail springs and our only manufacturer of rail wheels. We must protect this important manufacturing capacity.”
Ms Claydon said it was clear action was needed to protect national rail manufacturing capacity.
“Despite the fact there is a $100 billion pipeline of rail investment in the next two decades, a lack of coordination and planning creates great uncertainty for rail manufacturers,” Ms Claydon said.
“The decline of the rail manufacturing industry in recent years has discouraged rail manufacturing firms from investing in their businesses and forced many skilled workers from the industry.”
Ms Claydon said the plan also included:
- an Office of National Rail Industry Coordination (ONRIC) which will undertake an audit of the state of passenger trains across the country and develop train priority plans and proposed delivery schedules.
- the reinstatement of the Rail Supplier Advocate to help small and medium size businesses get a foot in the door for government contracts.
- a commitment to work with the states and territories to develop a National Rail Procurement and Manufacturing Strategy.
- a Rail Industry Innovation Council to address the need for more local research and development, skills and capabilities.