Manufacturing is the silent workhorse of the Australian economy. Through job creation, import replacement and maximising the value of our natural resources, manufacturing delivers tremendous benefits to the nation. Our sector employs almost 1 million Australians, contributes more than $160 billion into other sectors of the economy and creates an additional 2 to 5 jobs outside the sector for every job within it. I strongly believe that there is a positive future for this sector and I want to help ensure that we have the right type of manufacturing in Australia: manufacturing that takes advantage of our natural competitive advantages to create stable, rewarding employment not just in our cities, but also throughout rural, regional and outer-suburban Australia.
Manufacturing Australia is here today to release its policy manifesto, Australia’s Manufacturing Advantage, which advocates for three key areas of reform that we believe help Australian manufacturers to compete in this global sector. Certainly we face formidable challenges: among them the high Aussie dollar, high input costs, increased imports, which are sometimes “dumped” in Australia, the cost of running and constructing manufacturing plants in Australia and excessive or inconsistent regulation.
But we also have significant advantages, and manufacturing flourishes in those countries that identify and exploit their natural advantages. For some nations that advantage is cheap labour. For others, like Australia, those advantages include our abundant energy resources, our highly skilled workforce, our ties with Asia, our capacity for innovation and research and our stable governance.
Through smart policy and strategic investments, our sector can in the next decade directly and indirectly create 100,000 new jobs and drive a manufacturing resurgence throughout rural, regional and outer-suburban Australia.
So to our three priority areas of reform:
First, we must better capitalise on Australia’s energy advantage. Australia is an energy and resources superpower, but currently our domestic energy policies largely fail to capitalise on our energy advantage. The most important way we can do that is by creating a domestic gas market that enables value-adding manufacturing alongside gas exports.
Secondly, we must restore fair trading conditions. Great improvements have been made to Australia’s anti-dumping regime in the past 18 months, but more needs to be done. Mismanagement of open trade can easily lead to unintended consequences such as dumping and exclusion of domestic manufacturers from domestic markets. Through changes to coastal shipping regulations, further anti-dumping reforms and stronger industry participation schemes, we can ensure we are competing on a level playing field with our overseas competitors.
Finally, we need to invest for manufacturing growth. It’s time for governments and communities alike to get over the perception that manufacturing in Australia is a “sunset” industry, because it’s not. Advanced economies around the world are growing their manufacturing capacity through deliberate, smart investments in the sector. In Australia that means investment in infrastructure, better industry links for R&D, industry linked training, increasing the flexibility of our manufacturing workplaces and strengthening regulations that stimulate demand.
With the right policies, and the right investments, manufacturing can and will continue to flourish throughout the boom and bust cycles of other industries. These policies, which we have provided to members of the Federal Government this morning, and will provide to the Federal Opposition this afternoon, can help to achieve that.This statement was given by Manufacturing Australia’s chairman, Sue Morphet, in Canberra on March 18. It has been republished here with permission.