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I’m standing here at the old Ford factory in Geelong. Around me here just five years ago, Australia was making cars.
In its heyday, thousands of people worked here. And just a few minutes down the road thousands more worked at International Harvester.
In Geelong we had two cement works, a wire mill and Alcoa’s aluminium smelter at Point Henry.
Together this was a large part of Geelong.
This industry provided long term, well paid secure jobs.
And there’s a certain sadness in standing here because the emptiness of this place and others like it around Geelong, is a reminder that those companies are not doing this manufacturing at least, anymore here.
These jobs provided an income and a good life to all the workers and their families.
But it was much more than that.
They provided identity, a sense of purpose, and they provide a community.
I’ve often felt that you can gauge the health of a community by its local sporting clubs.
And just a few blocks from here is Windsor Park.
Home of the mighty North Shore Football Club.
In the modern era of the Geelong Football League, this club has completely dominated.
Since 1970, they have contested 21 Grand Finals, they have won 14 of them.
Between 1995 and 2000 they won six premierships in a row.
And North Shore has been a place of gathering, it’s given a focus to kids, it’s been a tremendous source of pride.
But at the end of the day, life has just been a lot better around here when North Shore has been winning.
During the Rudd and Gillard Governments, we tried so hard to keep the jobs here at Ford, as we did at Alcoa and all the industry around Geelong.
We saved lots of jobs, but the truth is that we didn’t save them all.
It’s not the role of government to underwrite every company.
But there is a vast difference between the determination we showed then to fight for jobs and what we’ve seen since with the Abbott Turnbull Morrison Government, goading the car industry offshore.
Because when Australia stopped making cars, we stopped doing the most complex, high tech manufacturing in the country.
Because this place was not just about blue-collar workers.
It was scientists and designers who worked here, graduates, and PhDs.
In the last eight years, we have seen the biggest deindustrialisation in Australia’s history.
And that is the true legacy of the policy indolence of the Morrison Liberal Government.
But we can change that, because for all that COVID-19 has exposed the loss of industrial sovereign capability under the Morrison government, it’s also provided our nation with an opportunity for the biggest reimagining of Australia since the end of the Second World War.
And that’s an opportunity we simply have to take.
The new owners of this building are the Pelligra Group, along with CEP Energy chaired by Morris Iemma.
Their plan is to put solar panels on the vast roof of this factory and big factories like it around Australia.
And the renewable energy that it will generate, it’s going to feed into Victoria’s big battery, which has been built by the Andrews Labor Government right here in Geelong.
And it is going to firm up a cheap, renewable source of electricity, which is going to power high tech manufacturing once again, in this building.
Thousands of jobs once again, in this building. But it’s not going to just happen.
We can’t take it for granted.
It needs the leadership of government, the leadership to have a settled energy policy, the leadership to commercialise our public research, to turn science into jobs.
The leadership to have the sources of funding available to rebuild Australian industry and to see our country climb the technological ladder.
What it requires is vision.
Scott Morrison doesn’t do vision, but an Albanese Labor Government will have the vision to see Australia be the most modern country in the world.
Because where lies modernity, lies prosperity.
We want to build an economy which generates those long term well paid, secure jobs and restores the health of communities throughout Australia just like those around me here in Norlane and Corio.
And maybe, just maybe, we will see North Shore win another flag.
And so, at the next election, we’ve got a really big choice between the drift of a tired, worn out, eight-year-old Liberal Government and the intent and purpose of Labor.
And I can tell you that every member of caucus is absolutely determined to win that fight.
But we need all of you to join with us and stand with people around the country so that Labor can win the next election and grab the future for our kids and our grandkids and in so doing, let every Australian know, that Labor is on your side.