A Shorten Labor Government will provide $54.2 million for a Food, Fibre and Advanced Materials Modernisation Grants program to drive local jobs and attract investment in manufacturing, particularly in rural and regional areas.

Labor’s program will match investments by manufacturers in projects to improve the efficiency of their operations and increase investment in new technologies, including energy-efficient capital equipment and low emissions technologies.

The food industry is a major contributor to the Australian economy, employing 322,000 people across food and beverage manufacturing, and processing of high quality fresh produce, with over 40 per cent of those jobs outside metropolitan areas.

According to the Australian Food and Grocery Council there are approximately 10,000 businesses involved in food and beverage processing, representing roughly one third of all Australian manufacturing activity.

There is enormous potential for Australia to tap into increasing demand from the rapidly expanding Asian middle class for safe premium food products, and to grow more local food industry jobs.

At the same time there are huge opportunities to grow our fibre and advanced materials sectors, composed largely of textile, clothing and footwear, furniture, timber, wood products processing and paper products manufacturing, as well as newer materials like carbon fibre, light-weight materials, bio-products and advanced polymers.

These industries are creating new opportunities for local jobs and investment, both along the food and fibre value chain and throughout other manufacturing sectors.

Despite the strategic significance of these combined industries and their importance to the Australian economy, a lack of investment capital has led to concerns about the long term sustainability of many manufacturing businesses and an inability to finance capital improvements to improve their operations.

That is why Labor will establish a Food, Fibre and Advanced Materials Modernisation Grants program.

These grants are a direct response to industry concerns about accessing finance to invest in capital improvements to manufacturing facilities that will lower costs, improve their competitiveness and create new jobs.

Total funding of $54.2 million over four years will be available to deliver these grants. Manufacturers will be able to access a range of flexible grants of up to $5 million on a matched funding basis.

The Liberals have nothing to say about growing Australia’s key strategic industries, like food, fibre and advanced materials.

The Liberals see no role for government in partnering with business and unions, as demonstrated by their reckless disregard for Australian automotive manufacturing and refusal to work with Australia’s steel producers.

Only Labor understands that an advanced economy needs an advanced, innovative and highly skilled industrial base. This requires strategic leadership from government as well as a partnership with business and workers.

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