Plan announced by Industry Minister Ed Husic offers $400 million to rescue Australia’s ‘missing middle’ companies
“Countries that make things make great jobs. That’s our focus as a government.”
The $392 million policy, called the Industry Growth Program, funds advice to small and medium-sized employers, or SMEs, as well as offering grants over the next four years. The policy assumes $79.2 million in annual spending in future years.
The Coalition opposed the National Reconstruction Fund and has accused Labor of failing to act on soaring costs for small and medium business owners, saying this would help more than the $15 billion fund.
“It’s an incredibly clumsy, inefficient and ineffective way of helping businesses when they need it,” deputy Liberal leader and industry spokeswoman Sussan Ley said last month.
“The real problem we see out there now is manufacturing businesses that are absolutely desperate, desperate because of costs. But lots of them have got really smart ideas, innovative ideas, and we offered relatively small grants that were matched by others that absolutely bought them from that idea stage to manufacturing on the factory floor.”
While Ley criticised Husic for appointing Australian Manufacturers Workers Union national secretary Glenn Thompson to the board of the National Reconstruction Fund, the fund also has former Liberal cabinet minister Kelly O’Dwyer on its board.
The board is chaired by lawyer and company director Martijn Wilder and its other directors are former Australia Post chief Ahmed Fahour, venture capital partner Katharine Giles, tech industry executive and investor Daniel Petre, former Australian Workers’ Union national secretary Daniel Walton and company directors Kathryn Presser and Karen Smith-Pomeroy.
Investment deals in climate change and advanced technology have dominated the first 100 proposals for the fund, which is meant to focus on priority areas including agriculture, medical science, energy, advanced technology, defence and transport.