The Victorian Nationals have called on the Andrews Government to implement a $1 billion manufacturing fund to secure Australian jobs.
Nationals deputy leader Steph Ryan said with support from government, there was an opportunity to grow agricultural manufacturing in the Goulburn Valley.
“A lot of our regional communities used to be based around the value-adding processes that came with agriculture, and over the last 20 to 30 years we've lost a lot of that,” Ms Ryan said.
She said over the past 20 years, 50 000 manufacturing jobs had been lost.
“Agriculture is one of our key industries and there's a huge opportunity for agriculture to benefit from a manufacturing fund like this if the Victorian Government takes this up."
Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said COVID-19 had shown the need to diversify supply chains, by bringing manufacturing back into Victoria.
“We see a lot of very good ideas developed here in Victoria but then they are taken off-shore for further development; those sorts of ideas should be turned into jobs in Victoria for the future,” he said.
Mr Walsh said the Victorian Government had borrowed $24 billion and that a $1 billion ‘Bringing Manufacturing Home’ fund would reduce an over-reliance on imported products.
The fund would provide businesses with the capacity for growth, such as Shepparton's Med-Con, which recently increased its manufacturing of masks for health care workers.
“Why are we sending our raw products overseas for it to be value-added and then having to buy it back again?,” Mr Walsh said.
“Let's make sure it's made here in Victoria and create jobs in Victoria.”
In response, a Victorian Government spokesperson said funding for Victorian businesses and workers would be revealed in future.
“The government has provided more than $3 billion to support Victorian businesses and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic and we’ll have more to say about further support — including for the manufacturing sector — in due course,” they said.