FEDERAL Labor Leader, Kevin Rudd, hosted a national manufacturing roundtable earlier this week to bring together stakeholders and experts critical to the future of Australia’s manufacturing industry.
Mr Rudd and Labor industry spokesman Kim Carr said manufacturing was a key driver of innovation and that was crucial in maintaining national prosperity after the mining boom.
“Manufacturing is responsible for almost 39 per cent of business spending on research and development, the core of innovation, and that was the most for any industry sector,” they said.
They also commented that Australian manufacturing accounts for more than $75 billion a year in exports and more than one million jobs despite a slight slowdown over the last decade.
In the period 1983-96, manufacturing exports grew at a rate of 14.8 per cent a year. But over the last five years, that growth has slowed to 11.8 per cent with an estimated 100,000 jobs lost from the manufacturing sector.
With manufacturers facing many challenges including the rise of China, the impact of the mining boom and growing concerns about climate change and the environment, the roundtable, conducted over two sessions, discussed fostering competitiveness in industry and new opportunities in Australian manufacturing.
Roundtable participants included manufacturers, representatives from industry bodies and organisations, research and innovation agencies and economics and finance communities.
In preparation for the event, Federal Labor circulated Fresh Ideas for Australian Manufacturing as a background paper.
The paper provides an overview of the current state of Australian manufacturing, outlines key issues and suggested policy options, and details Federal Labor’s existing policies as they affect the manufacturing sector.
“There is a broad consensus that a focus on innovation is critical to the survival of manufacturing in Australia, both for revitalising mature industries and for the development of sunrise industries,” it said.
“Indeed, innovation is critical for competitiveness across all sectors of the economy. That is why Labor says that in the 21st century innovation policy is industry policy.”
Mr Rudd and Senator Carr said Labor had already launched initiatives to boost innovation as well as programs such as the $2 billion green car partnership.
They said Labor had also proposed bringing forward scheduled reviews of the automotive and textiles, clothing and footwear industries.