Commonwealth contributions to rail projects will be linked to Australian companies being awarded contracts for the work, federal Labor has announced as part of a policy that has won union support.
Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon announced Labor's policy at Kooragang Island on Tuesday, which included the establishment of an Office of National Rail Industry Coordination and reinstatement of the Rail Supplier Advocate. It also includes the establishment of a Rail Industry Innovation Council and a commitment to work with states and territories to develop a National Rail Procurement and Manufacturing Strategy.
Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union assistant national secretary Glenn Thompson welcomed the plan.
"Australia is a manufacturing country with existing heavy rail manufacturing capability which has been under-utilised and needs restructuring and greater co-ordination," he said.
"Over the next two decades Australian governments will spend $100 billion on public transport rail expansion and it is important that they use Australian-based manufacturing and workers."
Ms Claydon said a Newcastle hearing during the Senate inquiry into the issue made it "abundantly clear that the rail manufacturing sector is in dire straits".
"Too much work is going overseas, there are too many peaks and troughs in the workflow and virtually no coordination between states," she said.
"Local manufacturer Lovell's testified that rail manufacturing had dropped from 60 per cent of its workload to 30 per cent within the space of five years.
"Newcastle is home to Australia's last manufacturer of rail springs and our only manufacturer of rail wheels. We must protect this important manufacturing capacity.
"Even though there's a $100 billion pipeline of rail investment in the next two decades, a lack of coordination and planning creates great uncertainty for rail manufacturers."
In the news: