National Paper Industries, NPI, bookkeeper Karen Stringer, Member of Euroa Steph Ryan, NPI general manager David Buttle and production manager Carmel McCormack met at the NPI site in Broadford on Wednesday to discuss a plan for local manufacturers' goods to be the choice of the State Government over imported goods.

By Tricia Mifsud

MEMBER for Euroa Steph Ryan is calling on the State Government to establish a $1 billion fund that will support Victorian manufacturers and help local industries grow.

Ms Ryan visited National Paper Industries, NPI, in Broadford on Wednesday, to discuss the importance of the fund that would realign the government’s purchasing policy, and prioritise local manufacturing over cheap imports.

“A $1 billion fund would encourage businesses to bring manufacturing back to Victoria as well as supporting existing manufacturers to expand, innovate or invest in research and development,” Ms Ryan said.

Ms Ryan said NPI had been the heart of the Broadford community and running synonymously with the town since 1890, producing pasted paper and boards that could be turned into advertising boards, palette protection, food tray and drink dividers.

The Nationals deputy leader said it was businesses like NPI that should provide products across Victoria, including to the government.

“The government is a big consumer of [paper and cardboard] product, and we have great local businesses like NPI manufacturing these products,” she said.

“Instead of buying cheaply produced product from overseas, the Victorian Government could use its buying power to help business like NPI grow and employ more local people.

“The Victorian Government uses many products that the business could supply; from laminated paper for advertising to cardboard lunch boxes and the tree guards used by water authorities, Parks Victoria and VicForests.”

Another example of the government choosing cheap, international products was the decision to import facemasks from China, instead of purchasing from Shepparton-based manufacturer MedCon.

“I think a lot of us were shocked to discover that the State Government was buying face masks from China, when we had a local manufacturer in Shepparton who actually rescued Australia when we had critical shortages of PPE,” Ms Ryan said.

Ms Ryan said the lack of plans from the government to rebuild the state after the devastation caused by lockdown was ‘concerning’.

“Victoria has lost more jobs than any other due to the pandemic and we need an urgent and bold plan to turn our fortunes around,” she said.

NPI general manager David Buttle said that no clear direction out of lockdowns had caused many setbacks for NPI.

Plans to invest into new products produced on site, which would also then create more local jobs, have had to go on hold.

“[NPI] have a lot of new projects in mind that we’re looking into investing in … the numbers did stack up but with us permanently in lockdown, we’re having to have a relook at things in that investment,” he said.

“It’s 50-50 at the moment because there is no clear view out of lockdown, because we’ll come out of this lockdown then we will be in the same position … no one can see a way out at the moment.

“We’re not doing anything different to address it and that’s the issue we’re getting; and businesses are worried about that, there’s no way out.”