Labor Rail Initiative supported by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union

Federal Labor has pushed a national rail initiative to get more rail contracts awarded to manufacturers who say they struggle to beat foreign companies for work.

Manufacturers said competition had increased, making it difficult to secure contracts.

Some businesses feared they would not survive if Victoria followed NSW in awarding tenders to overseas companies.

Bendigo Railway Workshop employee Darryn Thompson said he has seen a lot of change in his 16 years with the business.

There were only eight full-time employees and the shop had few contracts at its low point more than a decade ago.

“It was hard to come to work, there wasn’t a good atmosphere,” Darryn said.

Today, 100 employees work on contracts from six different companies.

Darryn said the factory had the capacity to make “everything” the locomotive, but it could be difficult to win contracts.

Union secretary Glenn Thompson said attempts to talk to the government about manufacturing were unsuccessful. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

He said he supported Labor efforts to keep rail manufacturing local.

“It means we’re getting more jobs in Bendigo,” Darryn said.

“It means we have security.

“We can go home in the evening and sleep well, because we have two or three years of work ahead of us. »

Union backs manufacturing push

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union deputy national secretary Glenn Thompson said he supported a Labor plan to boost rail manufacturing.

He said the Liberal-Nationals “didn’t come to the party.”

“The Labor Party is the only party that has presented a solid plan to seize the opportunities around a national rail industry,” Glenn said.

Glenn said the awarding of rail contracts to overseas manufacturers had been devastating for NSW businesses.

“We’ve had trains that have come in from Korea that are now being reworked in our workshops across NSW, because they don’t fit on the track,” Glenn said.

“It was based on the principle that it was 25% cheaper to have them built overseas. »

He said “billions and billions” of taxpayers’ dollars had been spent on the renovation.

The work plan lacks details

Labor MP Lisa Chesters said the national rail plan would ensure more rail contracts were awarded to Australian manufacturers rather than overseas.

But there were few details on what exactly the plan included or how much money Labor would allocate to it.

“So the national plan is, we will have an office that will help coordinate contracts,” Ms Chesters said.

A woman in a hi-vis standing in a factory
Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters said Labour’s national rail plan would create more manufacturing jobs. (Provided)

She said Labor also wanted to see more investment in domestic rail and the revival of passenger rail in rural towns.

“The more rail lines we have, the more trains there will be and then that will have an effect on the flow,” Ms Chesters said.

“We will work with state governments to ensure that all rail equipment is built here in Australia. »

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union said a federal government framework to prioritize local procurement would create jobs and allow the industry to survive.

A group of people wearing high visibility vests standing in a factory,
Bendigo Railway Workshop had only eight employees, but now has over 100. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Bendigo Liberal candidate Darin Schade and the Office of the Minister of Manufacturing have been contacted for comment.

Greens candidate for Bendigo, Cate Sinclair, said her party would invest an additional $25 billion in rail and bus services and $500 million a year in cycling and walking infrastructure.

“Greens support local manufacturing fueled by regional green energy; develop manufacturing jobs in areas where clean, renewable energy is generated by solar and wind power,” said Ms. Sinclair.

Ms Sinclair also said she supported investment in regional rail, with plans to build a high-speed train from Melbourne to Brisbane.

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