I rise to speak on the Customs Tariff Amendment (Incorporation of Proposals) Bill 2021. This is legislation that would amend the Customs Tariff Act 1995 to extend the free rate of customs duty to certain medical and hygiene products from 31 December 2022 until 30 June this year; provide for free rate of customs duties for goods for use in the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Program; and for prescribed motor vehicles and motor vehicle components for research and development activities by automotive service providers previously registered under the Automotive Transformation Scheme between 1 April 2021 and 30 June 2025.
This is a bill that Labor supports, because the amendments will facilitate continued access to medical products and hygiene products for use in combatting COVID-19. There is, of course, an ongoing need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the Australian community, and the products that we are talking about here will include face masks, gloves, clothes or gowns, goggles, glasses, eye visors, face shields, soaps, COVID-19 test kits and reagents, viral transport media and disinfectants. Also, the amendments contained in this bill will support continued domestic research and development in the automotive sector, and ensure that previously registered automotive service providers can continue to access the tariff concession. This will help automotive service providers maintain an Australian presence, including through the engineering services design and product development.
The bill contains three significant measures, as I touched on earlier. The first is to incorporate the Customs Tariff Proposal (No. 1) 2021, which was tabled in the parliament on 3 February. As has been made clear in the explanatory memorandum to the bill:
The provision of a "Free" rate of customs duty for certain medical and hygiene products to 30 June 2021 is estimated to reduce customs duty receipts by $3.8 million.
The second measure will also insert new items to provide a free rate of customs duty for goods that are for use in the program known as the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Program. Under the memorandum of understanding for the development of the joint strike fighter, Australia has committed to achieving tax neutrality under the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Program. This measure incorporates Customs Tariff Proposal (No. 2) 2021, which was tabled in the parliament on 17 March. The implementation for a free rate for goods associated with this will reduce receipts by $6.7 million across the forward estimates.
Finally, the third measure would insert a new item, section 39A, into schedule 4 to provide a free rate of customs duty for prescribed motor vehicles and motor vehicle components for research and development activities by automotive service providers previously registered under the Automotive Transformation Scheme and where the time for working out duty is between 1 April 2021 and 30 June 2025. This measure incorporates Customs Tariff Proposal (No. 3) 2021, tabled in May this year. The implementation of this free rate of customs is estimated to reduce receipts by $1.7 million across the forward estimates.
These measures commenced respectively on 1 January, 1 March and 1 April 2021 through notices of intention to propose customs tariff alterations and related customs tariff proposals, necessitating the amendment to the bill we're dealing with now. We must ensure Australia's domestic manufacturing capacity and capability through this prolonged COVID crisis and we must also support our long-term recovery. We must support industries that are of strategic importance. Therefore I move the following second reading amendment to this bill:
That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:
"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House:
(1) acknowledges the bill provides for reduced rates of customs duty for goods required to combat the COVID-19 pandemic;
(2) notes that the Government has failed to outline a long-term plan to support local industries that are of strategic importance and in our national interest to safeguard; and
(3) further notes that the Prime Minister's refusal to secure a variety of vaccines in accordance with world's best practice has left Australians dangerously exposed against highly infectious COVID-19 variants".
On this side of the House we will never forget, in the context of this legislation, that it was this coalition government that oversaw the destruction of our car industry. In 2013 the Liberals dared Australian automotive manufacturers to leave Australia and, sadly, they did. As a result of this action and others, the coalition has presided over the permanent loss of more than 55,000 manufacturing jobs in Australia.
The Morrison government has had over a year to invest in new manufacturing—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I call the minister on a point of order.
Minister Gillespie: I'm just seeking what relevance this has to the bill before the House.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Scullin will say—
GILES: One of the three elements in the bill goes exactly to this issue, Minister at the table! It goes to the third set of provisions, which go to concessional tariff arrangements that support the automotive industry.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I call the member for Scullin.
GILES: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. Perhaps you were aware of this matter when you were sitting around another table. The Morrison government has had more than a year to invest in new manufacturing capability and they haven't, once again leaving Australia missing out on new jobs and manufacturing opportunities. Government experts have since confirmed that the Prime Minister has never had a plan to create manufacturing jobs, just plans to create headlines. The secretary of the department confirmed at the 2021-22 budget estimates that the $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy has not created a single job—not a single job!—saying that this fact is crystal clear and an inevitable outcome of the funding profile that no new jobs in manufacturing have been created under the strategy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we need to be a country that makes things, but this government has squandered this opportunity and has left companies that have supported the national effort in the lurch. There is one example which is particularly telling: an Australian company that supported our domestic production of medical masks at a time of greatest need, Med-Con. When the pandemic hit at the start of last year, as borders were closing and the immediate imports of some critical medical equipment were frozen, Australian health services needed masks immediately and Med-Con was the only surgical mask manufacturer in the country. It's a small, family owned business based in Shepparton in Victoria and it was critical to supplying our frontline health services.
The government begged Med-Con to boost its supply and they did their bit—as all Australians have done throughout the pandemic. But they have been let down by this Prime Minister and left in the lurch. In April 2020 the Prime Minister, on his Facebook page, spoke of supporting Med-Con. He spoke at great length about this. But if we fast forward to 21 July of this year, this is what the CEO of Med-Con, Steven Csiszar, said to the ABC:
All the people we've supported throughout the pandemic seem to have left us.
The cameras move on and so does this Prime Minister, which is just so revealing of his behaviour at every turn. He is all about the photo op and never there for the follow-through. Whether it's bushfires or the pandemic, he cannot move himself beyond base politics and beyond engaging with daily political tactics. He has proven himself incapable of governing for all Australians or for the national interest.
Australians know that the Prime Minister had two jobs this year: speedy, effective rollout of the vaccine and putting in place dedicated national quarantine arrangements. He has failed at both to the cost of all us. The economy is bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars every day and billions a week because he hasn't done these two jobs. Australians can't afford another three years of this kind of leadership.
Labor supports the provisions that are contained in the bill, which are of themselves uncontentious, but we must be on guard with what is happening with our broader policy settings. We can't afford to be caught off guard like this again. The pandemic has underlined how exposed we are to disruptions in global supply chains. The pandemic has taught us we need to be a country that makes things, and a state-of-the-art sovereign vaccine capability must be top of this list. Under Labor, Australia and Australians won't be left behind as we have been under this government. Labour has a plan for reconstruction that will rebuild our manufacturing base, create good jobs and safeguard our health and prosperity. It's all about creating the advanced manufacturing industries that will power good jobs and a stronger economy and provide ongoing sovereign capability for decades to come.
The Prime Minister is not on the side of Australian manufacturing and he does not believe in a future made in Australia—and, even if he did, he does not have the character, vision or competence to see it through.