Comment: Labor senator Raff Ciccone on the National Reconstruction Fund

Federal Senator for Victoria, Raff Ciccone speaking at the official opening.


ON March 28, the Senate passed the National Reconstruction Fund, a key election commitment of the Albanese Labor government.

This $15 billion fund is all about revitalising Australian industry so we can be a country that makes things again. It represents one of Australia’s biggest investments in manufacturing in living memory.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we all saw how our over-reliance on international supply chains left us exposed to disruptions outside of our control.

But the Australian workers and businesses who stepped up to provide us with the goods and services we all rely on show that there is great potential to improve our domestic capability.

The National Reconstruction Fund is all about realising this potential.

The fund will direct significant investment into regional Australia, creating jobs in agriculture, forestry, resources and other important industries.

As the government has previously announced, $500 million of targeted investment will be directed towards value-adding in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and fibre.

I was disappointed that my Liberal and Nationals colleagues voted against establishing the fund.

It is exactly the sort of policy that regional politicians should support: The government stepping in to ensure Australians in rural and remote areas benefit from the nation-building activities and industry development that too often favours big cities.

But the Nationals voted with the Liberals against the bill. With each passing week it becomes clearer that the Coalition opposes policies not because they think they are bad ideas, but because Labor came up with them.

There are seven priority investment areas for the National Reconstruction Fund, ensuring that we are improving our sovereign capability in essential supply chains.

The areas have been selected to strategically drive economic development in our regions and outer suburbs, diversify the nation’s economy and create secure jobs.

One of these areas is defence capability. By maximising sourcing requirements from Australian suppliers employing Australian workers, we can ensure our own country plays more of a role in our defence supply chain.

The National Reconstruction Fund recognises that the forestry industry will be key to our low emissions future. By providing investment for value-add in forestry, we can ensure that demand for timber products – which we know must necessarily rise if we are going to meet our climate goals – can be met with Australian goods.

Value-adding activities in agriculture will also be eligible for investment through the National Reconstruction Fund, ensuring that Australian workers and businesses play a significant role in more steps in the agriculture supply chain.

I am proud that Federal Labor is delivering on its election commitments and delivering for regional Australia.

Senator Raff Ciccone is a Federal Labor Senator for Victoria, Deputy Government Whip in the Senate and Chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee