[OPINION] Carbon tax wreckage brings manufacturers together

Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science, Sophie Mirabella MP, writes exclusively for Manufacturers’ Monthly.

For all of the disastrous ramifications of Julia Gillard’s decision to implement a carbon tax, there has at least been one positive consequence to emerge from the wreckage.

I say that because the debate on the tax has graphically reminded Australians of the enduring spirit, passion and commitment of our country’s manufacturers.    

To see, as all of us have done, manufacturing businesses and workers rising up so defiantly against this destructive policy (and doing so in such numbers) has been a moving experience.  

Manufacturers are already feeling frustrated and angry that so many of the existing policy settings continue to operate to the detriment of Australian businesses rather than to their advantage. But those sentiments have become even more intensely felt since the Government adopted a siege mentality and broke its election promise not to introduce a carbon tax.      

Since I became the Shadow Minister for Industry in late 2009, I have been privileged to meet regularly with manufacturers across the length and breadth of the country. But at no time have I sensed such disquiet and disillusionment with the Government’s neglect of manufacturing as in the past three months. 

The refusal of manufacturers to lie down and accept policies that threaten their very existence has been gratifying to anyone who understands how important a strong and viable manufacturing sector is for our economy. 

It has also been heartening in a number of other respects, too – not least because it has helped to sharpen the focus, at the national political level, on the future of manufacturing in Australia. 

It has helped to revive a vital national debate by causing many people to consider critical questions about the kind of economy we want to have in the future. It has also forced them to stop and contemplate what the loss of an indigenous Australian manufacturing capability might mean for us in 10 or 20 years from now.       

Australian manufacturing workers are smart, innovative and hard-working people who know full well what a carbon tax will do to their international competitiveness. Especially in the absence of similar policies being adopted in other countries. 

They also know that the businesses in which they work are already trying to combat a range of pressures. And that the last thing they need right now is to be asked to absorb yet another substantial (and annually escalating) cost, let alone one that won’t be borne by their overseas rivals.     

Whether it’s with car workers in Geelong and Altona, plastics makers in Dandenong, food producers on the Central Coast, steel fabricators in Fremantle or a host of others, these are among the messages that continue to resonate when I meet with manufacturers all around the country. 

Another refrain is that the Government simply doesn’t understand that times are tough, and that Australians are now anxious about their livelihoods and about making ends meet.  

There was already disbelief that our Government was doing so little to help Australian manufacturers. But now there is palpable anger at its attempts to club manufacturing out of existence.  

In the national interest, the Coalition will continue to fight against this industry-destroying and job-destroying tax. And I would urge the same of anyone who wants Australian manufacturing to survive.  

Do you agree with Mirabella that the carbon tax is industry- and job-destroying? Post your comment below, or on Twitter @manmonthly.