Time to act

A group of CEOs has developed plans to reverse manufacturing's demise, but who is listening?

A group of CEOs has developed plans to reverse manufacturing's demise, but who is listening?

This could be manufacturing's outlook if nothing is done soon.

Manufacturing is going through one of its worst periods on record, with the upcoming carbon tax to put another stake in the industry's heart.

While the present government, and the opposition, talk un-convincingly about the importance of our industry to Australia's economy, much more needs to be done than just brief media-inspired visits to factories, and donning a yellow vest.

After the mining boom has subsided and the manufacturing sites have been turned into a wasteland, then what? The industry deserves more than platitudes.

Well the CEOs of some Australia's largest organisations, who formed the Manufacturing Australia business coalition about a year ago, are not resigned to failure and have developed the initial "Four Pillars of Manufacturing Reform" which covers industrial relations, anti-dumping and industry participation, regulations, and energy and resource allocation.

Present members of the lobby group include the CEO's of Amcor, Bluescope, Boral, Capral, CSR, Incitec Pivot and Rheem, with Dick Warburton as Chairman of the group.

While admitting there is no 'silver bullet', Warburton believes none of the challenges facing manufacturing today, from high input costs and excessive regulation to the high Australian dollar, is insurmountable, "but cumulatively, they are formable".

He accepts that labour costs are always going to be higher than other countries in the region, and accepts the high Australian dollar, but says all the other issues relating to manufacturing are in areas that we can do something about, "either the companies themselves or the government; things in relation to regulations, IR laws, and anti-dumping".

Warburton says he is not looking for bail outs, "rather government help to make the things that we do well, more efficient".

When it comes to IR, the group is calling for more collaboration between employees and management, without the union movements involvement, "unions only bring about delays, disruption and go beyond their remit, with productivity diminishing".

While no fan of the Fair Work Act Warburton is not pushing for a return of WorkChoices, "that needed changing, but the pendulum has swung too far the other way".

Regarding anti-dumping and industry participation, Warburton says Australian manufacturers cannot continue to withstand unfair trade that leads directly to the loss of jobs, loss of Australian capability and vulnerability to price increases.

He says the Government has rightly recognised the need to strengthen anti-dumping regulations, and to promote Australian industry participation, but says such policies must be appropriately supported and resourced at implementation if they are to be effective.

"The problem lies with the Customs bureaucracy, the Government needs to put its foot down and make it a priority."

For more information on the four pillars click here.