The Australian Manufacturing Forum was front and centre at the start of something we believe will have a real impact on public policy – the first meeting of the Parliamentary Friends of Manufacturing.
Organised by Senators John Madigan (Vic) and Senator Nick Xenophon (SA), the group’s inaugural meeting heard a speech by Forum founder Peter Roberts.
Roberts told a group of forty MPs and Senators, parliamentary advisers and Forum members that far from being ‘dead’ Australian manufacturing had much to be proud of.
“We hear things such as ‘we can’t compete in mass manufacturing’,” Roberts told the Wednesday (October 29) meeting in Parliament House, Canberra.
“That is a myth. We have many great companies making in huge volumes and competing internationally.”
He listed AMCOR, the world’s largest packaging group with 183 factories worldwide, Ansell the global number one in rubber gloves, and CSL the second biggest in blood products and influenza vaccines.
Locally businesses such as Kimberley-Clark manufactured more than one billion baby nappies a year at its Sydney factory.
“Far from being uncompetitive, Australian companies are highly successful global manufacturers.”
Roberts also detailed advanced manufacturers such as Cochlear, silicon chip maker Sillana Semiconductor, prosthetic implant business Anatomics as global leaders in their fields.
Roberts called on MPs to lead a change in the conversation around manufacturing – from one of doom to one of opportunity.
“There are a number of factors moving in Australia’s favour such as 3D printing,” Roberts said. “There will be a change from centralised mass manufacturing in low-cost countries to customised manufacturing at a local level.”
A recent meeting of Australian Manufacturing Forum members in Balmain, Sydney identified opportunities for local design and 3D manufacturing of items such as art sculptures, jewellery, furniture, household items and toys.
“What we don’t have and what we need are national industry policies for this new era of manufacturing.”
Roberts called on MPs to stop talking down manufacturing; stop chopping and changing policies with every change of government; and seek broader advice than the predictable inputs of dry economists such as those in the Productivity Commission.
He said:”We used to have a Bureau of Industry Economics and an Australian Manufacturing Council which gave government alternative perspectives. We need to regain that if we are to move ahead.”
Senator Madigan told the meeting that it was the first of many planned to give a voice to a sector that employed 950,000 Australians in meaningful, well rewarded jobs.
National Party MP, Bob Katter questioned whether Australians were happy to live in a country that imported most of what it consumed.
Australia has a balance of trade deficit in manufactures of more than $100 billion annually.
“Who is going to pay for all this?” Katter asked.
Representatives of the government and opposition were present at the meeting as well as manufacturer members of the Forum.
Industry associations represented included the Australian Steel Institute, Australian Furniture Association, Plastics & Chemicals Industries, Cooperative Research Centres Association and the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
Tracey Gramlick of the Australian Window Association told the meeting 30 per cent of all window systems imported into Australia did not comply with Australian standards.
Windows did not fit, were falling out in harsh weather or were simply not what they stated.
“Even the new ASIO building in Canberra has non-compliant windows,” she said.
Grimlick called on government to enforce Australian standards.
Peter Roberts 0419 140679
Senator Madigan’s office, Brendan Gullifer, 02 6277 3473