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Supporting sovereign manufacturing capability

Following an agreement reached today with the Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic around a number of amendments and related commitments, ACT Independent Senator David Pocock has confirmed his support for the government’s National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Bill 2023.

Senator Pocock said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted in the starkest possible terms how critical it is to rebuild a sovereign national manufacturing capability, which the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) aims to do.

“Critical to the success of the NRF is ensuring there’s a sustainable pipeline of eligible projects at a stage suitable for funding through the corporation,” Senator Pocock said.

“This is especially important for Canberra’s burgeoning startup sector and I welcome the government’s commitment to exploring additional policy mechanisms that would provide Australian startups access to finance as they navigate the path to commercialisation. 

“This commitment will help address one of the biggest challenges local firms raise with me around the need for more of that early capital to get them through the valley of death.

“The government has also committed to establishing a presence for the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation in Canberra. The NRF will reach across so many sectors of our economy so it’s vital that there is good engagement with other government agencies and departments as we can’t afford to operate in silos.”

In addition to the above commitments Senator Pocock also secured agreement to bring forward the date of the first review of the fund from five years after passage to before 31 December 2026 saying that with such a big investment it is important to ensure early that it is operating as intended. The government also agreed to shorten the terms of board appointments to a more regular four + four year maximum term. 

Disappointingly, however, the government declined to back an amendment seeking to incorporate Australia’s international obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. 

Nevertheless, the government did give assurances around giving regard to climate-related financial disclosure and nature-related financial disclosure frameworks when assessing climate-related risks and nature-related risks as part of any investment decision. Similarly, the government undertook to consider nature-based solutions be considered when investment decisions are being taken.

“I thank Minister Husic for his constructive engagement on this bill and on the related issues that my community has raised,” Senator Pocock said.

“I look forward to the jobs and investment the NRF will help generate and the capability it will help rebuild here in Australia.

“Currently, Australia ranks below the OECD average of total government support to business R&D spend as a percentage of GDP. We need to turn that around if Australia is to retain the talent we need to develop solutions that can turn the challenges we face into opportunities.”

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