Transcript - Doorstop - Maryborough QLD - 20 March 2019

With:
Mr Llew O’Brien MP, Member for Wide Bay.
Mr Robert Nioa, Director of Rheinmetall Nioa Munitions.

E&OE

Subjects: Regional Growth Fund; Rheinmetall; Maryborough Projectile Forging Plant; Defence Industry; Job Creation; Population Policy.

LLEW O’BRIEN:

It’s fantastic to be here today with my boss, Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the Nationals Michael McCormack and also my good friend Rob Nioa, the Director of Rheinmetall Nioa Munitions. Today we’re announcing that confirmation of the $28.5 million funding from the Regional Growth Fund has occurred. Previously when we stood before you in this place there was pre-approval for this wonderful project, the projectile forging plant here in Maryborough, but now the process has gone further and we are at that point where we have confirmation and we’re ready to sign contracts. So what this means locally is that the project will be commencing construction within this calendar year.

It’s great news for the local community. I really do want to thank Michael for his support of this project and also Rob for his great work in putting forward such a strong application. This was a very competitive process, the Regional Growth Fund: Some $270 million to do exactly what the name suggests, grow the regions. So NIOA-Rheinmetall Munitions put forward a proposal, it was looked at and it really shone in terms of what it looked to achieve. This project will be a projectile forging plant here in Maryborough that will produce some hundred jobs when completed.

This is advanced manufacturing that really is at a world standard and will set the scene here in Maryborough. Maryborough economically needs a good kick along and as much help as it can get. We’re transitioning – the economy is transitioning and we’re looking for new advanced manufacturing opportunities that we can trade with other countries around the world – and that’s what this is. Much of what will be produced here in Maryborough is export and it certainly will be good for the budget. So look it is really, really a great day for Maryborough and with that I’ll hand over to Michael McCormack. Thanks Michael.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Thank you Llew. It’s great to be here in Maryborough today. The business case has been done. The cheque for $28.5 million by the Federal Government has been written. The delivery by Llew O’Brien has been achieved. And now the construction will begin and the jobs will flow. That’s what this particular Regional Growth Fund is all about. That’s what this particular project is all about. And I’m really pleased to be here today to announce that the business case was successful. I know that NIOA- Rheinmetall put a lot of work into this. I know what it means to their business model. I know what it means to their progress and their success in the future. More importantly, I know what this means to Maryborough. I know what this means for local jobs. I know what this means for local manufacturing.

But it’s not just for the region that this is going to be so beneficial – this is also about regional Queensland. This is also about the State. This is also about the national Defence Industry. We’re growing it. We’re spending millions upon millions of dollars in Defence Industry and the money is not all going into capital cities, it’s also going to regional centres such as Maryborough. It’s going into places where we know there’s going to be great add-ons, where we know there’s going to be additional work places created, where we know that manufacturing is going to be such a hub here in the future.

This only happens because you’ve got Nationals like Llew O’Brien in the Parliament advocating, campaigning, working hard, delivering, achieving – making sure that when people say to him we need more local youth jobs, we need more manufacturing, we’d like a slice of the action when it comes to that big bucket of money you’ve got for Defence Industry and we need it in Maryborough – and he listened. He came to me, he put the proposal forward with Rob and I acted.

I made sure that this delivery has been achieved because that’s what Nationals in Government do, that’s what the LNP do. We make sure that when there are good projects, when they do stack up and we’ve got programs such as the Regional Growth Fund that we make sure that these places – Maryborough – and others besides, in the regions – don’t miss out. We want to grow these regions because as Llew O’Brien often says, as I often spruik, when the regions are strong, so too is our nation. And so we want to build on that. We want to develop that.

I look forward to coming here and possibly turning the first sod of the construction phase. I look forward to coming back when it’s open, when it’s creating more than 100 jobs into the future. Now I know construction will begin this year. I know that all things being equal, the plant will turn out the first projectiles and everything else that they’re going to manufacture in 2022. So that’s exciting. It’s progress, it’s success and it only happened because Llew O’Brien got behind it and he had a great company like NIOA-Rheinmetall. So with that I’d like to ask Rob to make a few comments as well. Rob.

ROB NIOA:

Thanks Michael. Thanks Llew. I’m going to give you a couple of words and then I’ll take some questions if you like about the specifics of the factory. But firstly I’d say it’s just very, very exciting to be back in Maryborough, back in my hometown after our initial announcement in October last year, and I can confirm on behalf of Rheinmetall Nioa Munitions today that this project, the Maryborough Projectile Shell Forging Plant, is going ahead. So everything is committed. The last commitment that we needed was the $28.5 million confirmation which the Deputy Prime Minister and Llew have just spoken about. That has now been given; we have been formally written to and advised that the business case has been successful in its assessment. We have all of the other sign-offs that we need. This project is now going ahead. So it’s very, very exciting – an incredible day for me personally, for Maryborough and I think for the greater industrial base actually in Queensland. We’ll talk a little bit more about what the project delivers in that regard.

When this facility is fully operational we will deliver up to 100 skilled jobs for the people of Maryborough. That is not just a new factory for Maryborough; this is a new industry for Queensland. This all came about – and we must acknowledge that the reason that we’ve been able to pull all this together – is a direct result of a combination of Federal Government policies. So firstly, we’ve got a Government who is committed to spending the Defence money in Australia, they are demanding that product is made here. They are encouraging us to create Defence export markets which we have done, and through projects like the Regional Growth Fund, they’ve identified that they want those type of investments to happen in regional areas. The Regional Growth Fund is about transforming regional economies and when we saw that we worked with Llew and we came up with what we think will absolutely be a transformational opportunity for Maryborough – as I said not just a factory, but a new industry that is coming.

And whilst we’re acknowledging the work and the effort of Government I absolutely want to single out Llew O’Brien for his continued advocacy for this project at all stages. He has fought tenaciously for this electorate to get it here, and there’s been a lot of work done behind the scenes by Llew. I absolutely can assure you without Llew’s continual drive to get this here with the competition that was around the nation with all of the projects and the limited amount of money, this would not have happened in Maryborough. So I absolutely want to say thank you very much to Llew O’Brien.

QUESTION:

In terms of where the factory is going to be located, how did you secure the site that’s intended?

ROBERT NIOA:

We’ll be locating the factory at the Moonaboola Industrial Estate which is on the northern outskirts of Maryborough. It’s already zoned and pre-approved for this activity. We have a contract on that land which we’ll be executing now that we have the Federal Government funds.

QUESTION:

Any specific date when construction is going to start?

ROBERT NIOA:

It will be second half of the year. We’ve got a team, tomorrow, flying to Germany. We’ve got an entire week of meetings planned with the scheduling group there. We’re trying to finalise the absolute last detail of the design of the factory. We then come back. We’ve already done preliminary costings with local builders for the construction costs. We’ll be updating the drawings and then going back to a formal tender process. We’ll be doing it as absolutely as soon as we possibly can. We’ll probably start some activity on site I would like to think by July 1 – things like clearing of land and so on. But we have to get the builders appointed and mobilised, and as soon as we can get them there digging holes, we will.

QUESTION:

Talk us through exactly what going to be manufactured and the skill level required to do that?

ROBERT NIOA:

It’s a good balance of skill level in that it is more than labouring work but it stops short of something which is so precise where you have a difficulty trying to fill the skill base. It’s also a very natural fit for the 20 per cent of youth unemployment that we’ve got in Maryborough because it is a skilled trade. We’ll need some trades but they can be trained in-house to some extent. And it will allow people to take that stepping stone from unemployed and unskilled to quite skilled and extremely important for our business. So the actual products that will be made here, there will be no energetic products, there’ll be no explosives in this factory. This is a heavy engineering metal based manufacturing facility and we will be making the casings for artillery shells like the ones that you see here. So take away the blue paint and that will be what we’re creating – a steel artillery shell, hollow which can be taken elsewhere, potentially overseas or elsewhere in Australia to be filled with high explosives or in some cases specialist rounds like illumination or smoke, obscuring smoke and those sorts of things.

QUESTION:

You mentioned a lot of them are going to be used in export, the export market as well. Is there any infrastructure needed here to enable you guys to be able to export such a large quantity of this?

ROBERT NOIA:

No, so other than we’ll need transport to get to a port, which we’ll be using local, local transport to do. But Rheinmetall already has the orders and already has the export market. The first two years of production will be 100 per cent export out of this facility.

QUESTION:

Any idea how many of these shells will be made a year?

ROBERT NIOA:

We’re looking at a capacity with size of the plant for a single shift operation of around 30,000 artillery shells a year and our business case says that we’ve got that fully sold.

QUESTION:

Is there a dollar figure on how much this factory is going to generate for the local economy?

ROBERT NIOA:

We’re spending, in investment terms, $60 million upfront. That’s the construction phase. We’ve got 100 jobs which will be ongoing once they’re operational, and then you’ve got the flow-on jobs that go beyond the direct jobs. I don’t have the exact figure that’s been calculated for the total economic benefit for the project, and some of those figures will vary depending on the life of the project that you put it on. But we can actually provide that as a supplementary if you like.

QUESTION:

Is there any other kind of factory like this in Australia?

ROBERT NIOA:

Australia used to have the capacity to make artillery shells in Victoria; it was a World War II era capability. As artillery shells have grown in capability, we lost that capability in Australia. So there is nowhere in Australia that you can make these modern artillery shells, which are now required for the national defence of the nation. So this is critical. It’s a critical capability for the defence of Australia.

QUESTION:

Depending on the demand, is there the potential that this development could expand; that this factory could actually bring about more jobs into the future for the region?

ROBERT NIOA:

I hope so. I’ve just come back from Germany and we’ve started exactly those discussions. So, once we’ve satisfied the underlying business case for the investment, always then, there’s an appetite for having made that sunk cost, how can you leverage it. It’s just a natural business extension. What else can you do? What other value-add can you do? What are the natural synergies? We know our business partner Rheinmetall has already heavily invested in Queensland, in armoured vehicle manufacture. What we don’t know is what’s coming two years from now. But the fact that we’ll be here will provide a catalyst for new and additional opportunities and we’ll be driven to try and find those opportunities as we go.

QUESTION:

And why Maryborough, I think you touched on it last time, but what’s the appeal of this small little heritage city for Australia’s only ammunition factory?

ROBERT NIOA:

I think I said it last time it was because I love Maryborough. But in practical terms, Maryborough has been building Queensland for generations. This has been the construction hub of Queensland, if we look back at the heavy engineering industries that have been based here from shipbuilding to train building and so on. What’s happened over multiple generations is you have that skill set that’s here. So when you’re looking to try and create or populate a new factory with skilled workers, there is a natural pool of labour to draw from and skill sets, and coupled with the unemployment, it looks like that skill set will be available.

QUESTION:

Do you think that this kind of large scale development could actually draw in more investors to the region?

ROBERT NIOA:

I hope so. I mean, I genuinely just hope that for Maryborough and I guess we’ll hope for all good things for the factory; and we’ll be looking to work with other businesses and there will be other opportunities that will evolve. Who knows what the future will bring?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Build it and they will come.

ROBERT NIOA:

That’s it.

QUESTION:

I was just wondering about where it’s being built.

ROBERT NIOA:

At Moonaboola Industrial Estate.

QUESTION:

On the highway?

ROBERT NIOA:

Yes, on the highway.

QUESTION:

Now, in the last couple of weeks, Labor has slammed the Coalition for failing to deliver on its promise to actually secure these funds.

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, they’ll have egg on their faces this morning, won’t they? And I expect a retraction. I will be looking forward to that apology.

QUESTION:

Was there a delay in securing the funds?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

No. Business cases take time to develop. When Labor were in Government for those six unfortunate years, they rushed things through. There was no accountability. There was no transparency. There was no ticking boxes. There was no dotting i’s or crossing t’s and that’s why the nation was in such a mess when we took back Government in 2013. But we do things properly, we always do things properly and we do them meticulously. This business case has been done properly and efficiently and meticulously and that’s why we are here today announcing $28.5 million of Federal Government money that is going to go into boosting Maryborough; that is going to go into boosting regional Queensland. Now, if Labor has a problem with that, well, that’s just Labor being Labor. But the fact is, I’m sure, the people of Maryborough won’t have a problem with that. I’m sure Rob and his business certainly doesn’t have a problem with that and I know Llew O’Brien who has fought so hard to get these funds, to get this manufacturing facility here, I know he won’t have a problem with that. But some people – well, Labor – they just complain about anything.

QUESTION:

Has this announcement been fast tracked ahead of the election?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

No. We waited until the business case was fully developed and fully done and it’s in place as you would expect. People will always accuse you of going around just prior to an election but this is what Llew O’Brien and this is what I do all the time. When we announced the Section D, Cooroy to Curra section of the Bruce Highway, $800 million of Federal Liberal-Nationals investment, that wasn’t just prior to an election; that was because we wanted to get people home sooner and safer; that’s because that road, that particular project, that particular section, was so badly needed.

We’re doing these sorts of things all the time because we’re committed to the regions. Llew O’Brien is dedicated to making sure that he grows his electorate, that he enhances jobs, that he makes sure that businesses already paying the lowest tax rate for 79 years are given an even bigger hand-up through such projects as this. That’s what we do all the time. That’s because we’re Liberals and Nationals. That’s because we’re in Government and we’re fighting hard to make sure that our regions can prosper. We don’t just want these towns to survive. We want these places to thrive into the future and that’s what we do every waking minute of every day.

QUESTION:

We’ve just got a few other questions just in relation to population policy. So, what would population policy mean for regional Australia?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

It means that any immigration to regional areas is going to be targeted and strategic and that’s what the Nationals have always said. We want where locations and where communities are crying out for more workers, for more people, for more migrants, then, if they put their hands up, then we’ve got skilled positions; we’ve got unskilled workers; and if they come in and provided they’ve come in the right way and they do all the right things, then we want them in our communities. We don’t want them in communities where there is a lot of unemployment, where there is economic downturn, I appreciate that. And all regional communities, whilst they’re very similar, they want to go ahead, some of them are very different inasmuch as in some areas they’re quite depressed. In other areas, they’re – drought notwithstanding – they’re going ahead. They want more migrants.

The population strategy being announced today is sensible, pragmatic and practical. We want to make sure that we continue migration because when you continue migration, you continue to grow your nation. You continue to grow business. You continue to grow industry and you enable even more exports and you also enable diversity across the population, across the nation. And that’s what we’re doing. It’s a sensible policy being put forward today by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government, on behalf of Australia.

QUESTION:

Can you talk us through the actual policy? I believe it will require people to stay in the regions for a minimum of three years. Can you can you run us through the details?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

Well, that’s right. And if they stay for a minimum period, then they will get their permanent residency. They will get it sooner than they would have if they wanted to just go to a capital city or if, as previously was the case, we had a lot of people arriving and they didn’t work or they arrived in capital cities and they formed only more congestion. We don’t want the congestion in our capital cities; our capital cities are bursting at the seams.

But we want to make sure that our population strategy is in line with our infrastructure. We want to make sure that the record amount of money that we’re spending on infrastructure across the nation, be it in metropolitan capital cities or be it in the regions, has that ability to take in more migrants but where they’re most needed. I know even in some of the regional capitals in New South Wales, the State from which I come, there’s unemployment rates of 1.9 per cent. Well, that is full employment. Now, those sorts of places – you go up the main street, the high street, and there are placards and posters in just about every second shop window which say: employment available within; jobs available, apply within; see the owner; see the manager. And those sorts of places want migrants; they want people both unskilled and skilled to come to their shops, to come to their businesses and to fill those jobs that either can’t or won’t be done by others. And so, that’s what we want. We want targeted, strategic migration but in places that quite frankly are either full up or places which quite frankly have no jobs and high youth unemployment, in particular, we’ll absolutely make sure that migrants aren’t being sent there.

When you have a tight national security and a tight border policy, you’re able to take on board people as part of the humanitarian refugee process. I was proud, coming from Wagga Wagga, that when 55 families needed to be placed just a couple of years ago, we opened our arms and welcomed them. Now, they have integrated into the community. They’ve got jobs, whether they’re at the meat processing plant there or whether they’re in white collar jobs. They’re working. They’re part of the community. They’re not in enclaves. They’re not putting pressure on capital cities. And they’re making sure that they’ve got a future, a life, ahead for them.

Now, Labor’s population policy, well, it’s just open slather. And if Labor gets in and Bill Shorten is the Prime Minister, you’ll see the boats return. There is no question about that. And you will see people drowning at sea. Sadly, we had 1200 people drown at sea in those six sorry years under Labor’s failed immigration policies, failed border protection policies, and it was just giving the people who are people smugglers the opportunity to conduct their business model and a successful model it was under Labor. But under us, we tightened the borders, we stopped the boats and we made sure that people weren’t losing their lives at sea.

QUESTION:

How can the Government ensure that these migrant workers don’t take jobs from locals who may be struggling to secure employment?

MICHAEL MCCORMACK:

We’ll always make sure that if there are jobs there for Australians there will always be a policy by which Australians can apply and get jobs. Providing people are willing to be mobilised and willing to travel, there are jobs there in Australia now for them. I appreciate that youth unemployment is high here in Maryborough, I understand that. And that’s why this announcement today is going to solve part of that problem. And as I said, when Rob was asked a question about will it enhance other industries: Well, yes, it will. Build it and they will come. You put a plant like this in and get manufacturing people in; you get the job and the economy situation rolling. You will get other likeminded industries and others besides wanting to come to town, wanting to invest, wanting to build, and wanting to make sure that they have a future too in Maryborough; and that’s why we are doing these job-creating programs.

That’s why these sorts of projects are so valuable. I know Llew O’Brien gets it. I get it. The Nationals and the Liberals understand it. Unfortunately, Labor doesn’t. We’ve helped small business and medium enterprises and big business as well generate 1.25 million jobs over the last five or six years. That didn’t happen under Labor. So, we are the job-creating Government and rest assured, re-elected, we’ll continue to build on that. Thank you very much.

Hannah Maguire