House of Representatives Speech- Economy Debate

It is clear to everyone in this House, to every Australian family and to every Australian business that we face extraordinary economic circumstances. Globally, we are experiencing the worst recession since the Great Depression: the world economy is expected to contract by 1.3 per cent; other advanced economies are in deep recession. In Australia, the early and decisive action that was taken by the government has helped stave off technical recession. Fortunately, our economy has been more resilient and better equipped to withstand the global downturn. We are now the fastest growing economy in the OECD and we are the only major economy to have avoided recession.

It is clear to everyone in this House, to every Australian family and to every Australian business that we face extraordinary economic circumstances. Globally, we are experiencing the worst recession since the Great Depression: the world economy is expected to contract by 1.3 per cent; other advanced economies are in deep recession. In Australia, the early and decisive action that was taken by the government has helped stave off technical recession. Fortunately, our economy has been more resilient and better equipped to withstand the global downturn. We are now the fastest growing economy in the OECD and we are the only major economy to have avoided recession.

In our local community, there are many companies who are aiming not simply to survive the global recession but to continue to grow their businesses and to keep creating local jobs. They are doing this through innovation, through increased use of technology and through their response to shifting demand and the changing imperatives of our economy and our environment. I am proud to say that, in south-east Melbourne, the Rudd government’s response has been both timely and effective. We have been working hard to support businesses and jobs through this period.

The government’s Climate Ready Program will invest $75 million to support research and development, proof of concept and early-stage commercialisation to develop solutions to climate change challenges. Local projects in our community are demonstrating that this funding does not just protect our environment; it supports local Australian jobs. Over the past few months, two local companies, Clean TeQ and Frontline Australasia, have won funding from the Climate Ready Program. I had the opportunity to visit Clean TeQ’s factory to see for myself how this funding—in the case of Clean TeQ, almost $1 million—will help not only their business but our environment and local employment as well.

Clean TeQ is a mining services and environmental solutions company that develops and commercialises sustainable technologies, and it does so with a focus on properly utilising natural resources. Greg Toll, the chief executive officer of Clean TeQ, showed me around the company’s factory and explained how government funding will assist in the development trials of a pretreatment process that will separate waste from water, with no sediment. This means they will be able to trial pretreatment technologies that will provide the desalination process of separating waste from water in a safe and environmentally friendly manner. Clean TeQ has almost doubled its staff, from 17 to 30, in the past 18 months, and this federal government funding has put the company in a position to hire more engineers to undertake this project. It is an example of a local Australian company being innovative and taking on the world.

So too is Bangholme based Frontline Australasia, who manufacture and supply precision components and assemblies to organisations such as Holden, Ford, Tenix, Boeing and the Royal Australian Navy. In a world first, Frontline Australasia is working with the CSIRO to develop a continuous cold-spray pilot plant for the production of seamless titanium alloy tubing and pipe. They are undertaking this project with support from the federal government of $1.2 million. The cold-spray process uses a high-pressure and high-velocity gas to make titanium powder into seamless titanium pipe. The process reduces the energy usage compared to conventional commercial manufacturing technology by around 30 per cent, which could save thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases each year.

Another local success story is Roshan Textiles, run by Roshan Gunawardana and his family, which received a $42,000 federal government grant under the Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Small Business Program. This will allow the company to implement a new ordering system via the internet to make it easier for their customers to make and track their orders. With customers across Australia as well as in New Zealand and China, Roshan believes that this new online system will improve administrative efficiency, allowing his staff to spend more time on the shop floor. The issue with the textile industry at present is not simply price but also capacity. Roshan is planning to build a new factory building on his existing site in Dandenong South, and that is why this grant will assist to free up resources to increase production.

The Rudd government is committed to providing small and medium businesses with the support that they need to keep supporting Australian jobs. We know some businesses are doing it tough which is why the government has given small businesses access to an additional 50 per cent tax deduction for plant and equipment purchased before the end of this year which is installed before the end of next year. I know that car dealerships in my electorate were extremely pleased with the Rudd government’s decision to give a tax break to businesses to buy new cars. It saw a jump in new car sales to businesses of 12 per cent compared to June 2008, bucking the trend of declining car sales across the board.