Topics:   Nuomed pharmaceuticals manufacturing facility; state border restrictions;



David Bevan: Simon Birmingham Federal Finance Minister joins us now. Good morning, Senator Birmingham.


Simon Birmingham: Good morning, David. Good morning, Ali.


David Bevan: What’s going to be built at Sailsbury South?


Simon Birmingham: So at Sailsbury South we will see a major manufacturing facility built by Nuomed Pharmaceuticals, a Global Pharmaceuticals Company, they currently import lots of cold and flu drugs and different medicines, including lifesaving medicines, into Australia. They’ll now shift much of that production to manufacturing in Australia, here in Adelaide out at Sailsbury, creating many ongoing jobs as a result.


David Bevan: And are they doing it with federal support? Is that why you’re taking the running on this?


Simon Birmingham: They are doing it with federal support, listeners may recall that in last year’s budget, the Morrison Government announced at 1.3 billion dollar Modern Manufacturing Initiatives. We did so in part out of some of the concerns observed during the COVID crisis and the fact that we saw some challenges in supply chains around the country and that we identified the need for a step up in terms of manufacturing capability in some places. And so there’s 20 million dollar support for the establishment of this facility in Australia, bringing the production and manufacturing of these medicines and lifesaving drugs to our country.


David Bevan: Right, so that’s an important element in all of this that is creating sovereign capability, which is a fancy way of saying we want to be more self-sufficient.


Simon Birmingham: That’s right, David. So, yes, the jobs obviously important, around 250 jobs during construction and then crucially, around 180 ongoing jobs. But that sovereign capability, I mean, we saw in the early stages of the pandemic how alcohol manufacturers were able to pivot to making hand sanitiser, fast food wrapper manufacturers were able to pivot to making facemasks, that we were able to scale up the manufacturing of ventilators in Australia. So we do have a good, strong and adaptable manufacturing sector. But the bigger and stronger it is, the safer and more secure we are.


Ali Clarke: And why South Australia specifically and why that site?


Simon Birmingham: So that really is Nuomed’s decision. We’ve been running this is a national programme as the federal government and there are a number of other companies around the country receiving support today, although this is one of the biggest of those announcements. But I think from a South Australian perspective, we are something of a hub with around 20 different pharmaceutical companies having a presence in SA. And so hopefully this will only add to that. And of course, many not just engaged in manufacturing or production, but crucially in the research, development and innovation stages, which is where there’s huge opportunity for high tech jobs in the future.


Ali Clarke: So we know that there is federal government money in this as well. Do you know if there is also any state government money?


Simon Birmingham: I’m not aware, Ali, there may be elements in terms of taxes or land or those sorts of things, but not to my knowledge.


David Bevan: Ok. And it takes a while to build this. This is not just waking up a warehouse. Construction is due to begin later this year. It won’t open until 2025.


Simon Birmingham: It is a very high tech facility, as you’d anticipate in terms of manufacturing, drugs and pharmaceuticals. So, yes, it’s a slow process in that sense to get through all of the approvals processes and then to put the technology in place. But it’s another pointer to the positive long term future for our state, we can see whether it’s in sectors like this space, defence, etc., many of them contributing to good paying secure jobs for an educated workforce.


Ali Clarke: In this conversation. Two questions have been coming up consistently from our listeners. Why are we not chasing a manufacturing facility for a Covid vaccine?


Simon Birmingham: So as a country, we are. In this year’s budget we put aside funds and initiated a process around bringing that MRNA technology to Australia. I think most people are now aware that we do have the capability in Australia and our manufacturing the AstraZeneca vaccine. It’s one of the reasons why it was the workhorse of our vaccine strategy, the MRNA technology, is new technology. Australia hasn’t had that technological capability before. So there are two parts really to our securing of that. One is making sure that we secure the tech transfer from the companies that own that technology globally. And the other is tying them up with partners in Australia who can establish that manufacturing capability. That work is well underway. It’s not at the point where commercially it’s able to be announced yet, but for the long term, we know this technology is here to stay and booster shots will be here to stay. It’s not going to fix the immediate vaccine issues, but we have a supply contract to see in excess of 70 per cent of the population vaccinated through the course of the rest of this year, even just on current and recent trends.


Ali Clarke: Which leads us to a word that I’m seeing consistently now is Fauldings. It was a part of South Australia’s backbone for many, many, many years. Is there been any movement towards what happened with their factory and whether- because that is the number one question, why, why? Why did they leave and why is it okay to bring it back here now?


Simon Birmingham: Different companies. I mean, these are all commercial ventures we’re talking about, so different companies will find they’re in different or better positions at certain points in time. So I can’t speak for Fauldings and exactly where their market share and position in the pharmaceutical sector went. But obviously Nuomed sees a very strong future for themselves in Australia, and it’s a good thing that they’re going to be making their drugs right here in Salisbury.


David Bevan: Before you leave us. Earlier today, Ali was talking to the CEO of Canberra Airport, Stephen Byron, and he wanted to know why South Australia was a no fly zone from Canberra, despite the territory remaining Covid free for about a year.


[EXCERPT]  Stephen Byron: We’ve engaged with the South Australian and Western Australian governments to try and get this problem resolved, and we’re hopeful that the transition committee will keep looking at this. But one of our key things is that it’s such a hodgepodge of rules around Australia. Indeed, in Queensland, and they’ve been one of the most conservative jurisdictions in the world throughout this crisis. They continue to have an open border with the ACT because they understand that we are not part of Sydney. So what we’re asking for is some certainty for us and for the travelling public that where there are no Covid cases, then the state border will not be closed. [END EXCERPT]


David Bevan: Simon Birmingham. Do you share, Stephen, Byron’s frustration that South Australia continues to close its border with Canberra?


Simon Birmingham: A little, David, I entirely understand why Steven Marshall took a very cautious approach in closing the border to the ICC when things looked like they were spiralling out of potentially out of control a couple of weeks ago-


David Bevan: Well, Marshall says it’s a dangerous situation. Do you think it’s a dangerous situation?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I don’t think it is now, but New Zealand even reopened to the ACT on Monday at the same time as they reopened to South Australia. So I hope that will be reconsidered. I think the state is right to preserve its position in terms of closing the borders where it thinks it’s necessary, sometimes taking a pause to check just what’s happening. And clearly, that’s what occurred in terms of the closure when it was put in place a couple of weeks ago. But the ACT has remained COVID free throughout that time. There’s been no spread from Sydney to Canberra in that sense. And so I would hope that the transition committee or the state government will reconsider that fairly promptly.


David Bevan: But isn’t this exactly the sort of thing which is causing you and the prime minister to tear your hair out? You’ve got state governments dragging the chain on this sort of thing. The border was open to New Zealand for crying out loud on Monday, four days later, we’re still thinking, oh, we don’t want to take anybody from Canberra. They haven’t had a COVID a locally transmitted COVID case for a year.


Simon Birmingham: Look it is a point of occasional frustration, David, but it’s the reason why the prime minister took the strategy through national cabinet last Friday, outlining the four phases for the states and territories to work with the Commonwealth in terms of reopening-


David Bevan: Gee, you pull your punches for Steven Marshall? You didn’t for Annastacia Palaszczuk.


Simon Birmingham: No, I understand, and I think- I understand entirely that Queensland, all states have got this right, this power along the way. As I said, I think it’s high time that SA reconsidered in relation to the ACT. I respect their right to do it a couple of weeks ago, but I think it’s it ought to be reconsidered. It stayed in place too long, it seems, relative to the risk.


Ali Clarke: Simon Birmingham, Federal Finance Minister, thank you.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks very much, guys.