Comment piece: Sophie Mirabella on how the Coalition would remove the shackles on manufacturers

The outcome of this year’s Federal election will be vital in determining whether manufacturing with grow and flourish in Australia. As part of our policy approach, the Coalition has identified manufacturing as one of the five key pillars of our economy. We believe a vibrant manufacturing sector is essential to a diversified economy, job creation, and driving innovation and economic growth. 

The Howard Coalition Government presided over the longest industrial expansion in our modern history, including an expansion in manufacturing activity for 13 of its last 14 months in office.  Between 1996 and 2007, manufacturing employment remained stable at over one million jobs and real wages for Australian workers rose by an astonishing 21 per cent.  This contrasts with downturns for almost 65 per cent of the Rudd and Gillard Governments’ tenures – including a decline for every one of the past 11 months.

If elected, we will provide the stability and certainty that our manufacturers need to be able to get on with what they do best. We will abolish the carbon tax, reduce red tape by $1 billion a year, get government spending under control and create the right economic environment within which manufacturing can grow.

Since the announcement of the carbon tax, over 27,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost.  For the first time in decades, the number of Australians employed in manufacturing has fallen below one million.  And even the Government itself has failed to deny that the rate of manufacturing job losses in recent years has been unprecedented in Australia’s history.

We understand that, for our manufacturing businesses to prosper, they must be able to compete on a level playing field. Abolishing the carbon tax is an important first step as it will remove a tax that increases the cost of manufacturing in Australia whilst imports get a free ride.

We have developed a world class anti-dumping policy that will cut the time and cost of anti-dumping applications and better ensure that foreign products are not dumped into the Australian market at below cost price.

We have also signalled our intention to change Australia’s standards regime so that imported products comply with the costly mandatory standards imposed on locally-made goods.

A vibrant culture of innovation is essential to growing and diversifying our manufacturing base. The Coalition understands the importance of innovation in a highly competitive global economy.

The weakening by the current government of R&D tax incentives for manufacturing will therefore be reversed. Like many manufacturers, the Coalition was bewildered at the abolition of the very successful Commercial Ready programme and its replacement with the inferior Commercialisation Australia model. We need practical and effective commercialisation programmes, particularly for small business.

The Coalition will abolish the Government’s flawed Industry Innovation Councils. We will work, through genuine consultation with Australian businesspeople, to deliver better future plans for individual industries. In the wake of regular Labor cuts, we will also ensure that Cooperative Research Centres are appropriately funded to continue their work in creating greater collaboration between researchers and industry.  We will also encourage much closer collaboration between academic researchers and business.

Most importantly, it will be a fundamental priority of the next Coalition Government to make sure our economy grows strongly again.  We want to create genuine incentives and opportunities for industry to grow, invest in Australia and employ Australians.

For too long, manufacturing in Australia has languished under the economic torpor and policy ineptitude of a divided, dysfunctional and chaotic Labor Government. If we are to regain our competitive edge in an increasingly global marketplace, we must take immediate action to address the inequalities that have been created through the unwelcome introduction of excessive red-tape and new taxes. We must take immediate action to address the uncertainty that has been created through the constant moving of the goalposts and chopping and changing of policy.

Australia can have a diverse economy which includes a 21st Century manufacturing base. The Coalition recognises that our national prosperity depends on removing the shackles and burdens on Australian industry. The best thing government can do is to abolish the carbon tax and reduce costs to ensure a level playing field and a stable domestic economic environment.

The Coalition is committed to Australian manufacturing and Australian manufacturing jobs. We want to ensure the future of an innovative and vibrant manufacturing sector in this country, which is why we have placed manufacturing front and centre of Our Plan for Australia.