Some firms won’t survive: Weatherill

South Australian premier Jay Weatherill has told the AWU national conference that manufacturing is facing huge challenges, and the industry needed to focus on making high-value products.

Weatherill spoke to the conference yesterday about the sector, particularly in his state, being under strain from a combination of issues. 73,000 jobs and the “cornerstone” of SA’s economy – manufacturing – were at risk, he said.

"Right now manufacturing is facing one of its biggest challenges in history,” The Australian reports him as saying.

“In SA, the challenge is acute. Our manufacturing base is narrow, with a predominance of small to medium-sized enterprises.

"It has suffered from low productivity growth and exposure to the high Australian dollar.”

Weatherill, speaking the day after the federal government released its Plan For Australian Jobs and announced its intention to establish a network of innovation precincts, said that the focus should be on advanced, high-value manufacturing.

The country’s manufacturers needed to make, "high-value and specialised consumer products." AAP reported that the premier lamented that Australia no longer made shearing cutters and combs, with these made in China and Germany.

Weatherill announced his government’s ten-year plan for the state’s manufacturing industry last October, also mentioning the need for local industries to compete with innovative products rather than on cost.

“We need to compete with other countries by making products that are niche, high-value products, rather than cheap products, made by workers on low wages,” he said last year.