According to the federal government’s Australian Manufacturing Performance Report, manufacturing contributes $100 billion per year to the Australian GDP, employs one million people and is responsible for 26 per cent of all R&D business expenditure in Australia.
This shows that Australian manufacturers are helping to deliver a strong, resilient economy – an increasingly important factor, post-COVID.
“Australian manufacturing is world-class,” Weld Australia CEO Geoff Crittenden said. “We need our governments to recognise that local manufacturers, fabricators and welders have the capability and capacity to deliver their local asset and infrastructure needs. Government procurement decisions must prioritise Australian manufacturing.”
Weld Australia has called on governments to have confidence in Australian manufacturing in the wake of several faults in NSW trams and ferries.
All 12 trams that normally run on the Central to Dulwich Hill line were decommissioned last month. Major cracking was found in the trams, which were manufactured in Spain. The trams came into service in 2014 and are now out of warranty, leaving NSW taxpayers potentially liable to foot the repair bill.
The Newcastle light rail was then suspended following a mechanical issue identified in the trams that were built by the same Spanish manufacturer.
Several cracks have also recently been found in the hull of one Sydney’s new Manly ferries. An independent report identified several welding defects onboard the Balmoral—one of the Emerald-class ferries, built in Indonesia and China.
“Australian manufacturing, fabrication and welding companies are globally competitive and more than capable of delivering infrastructure like Sydney’s trams and ferries on time and, more importantly, in accordance with all relevant international standards,” Crittenden said.
“Over the last few years, the Australian fabrication industry has made enormous progress. In 2018, there were just 15 local companies certified to the international standard for welding quality. Today, there are over 75 companies certified by Weld Australia as compliant with the standard.”
There are several local companies also certified to the international standard for welding rolling stock, Crittenden said. Still more have passed the German Standard for welding of armoured vehicles – the most stringent welding certification.
Weld Australia has worked with TAFEs nationwide to rejuvenate Australia’s technical welder training, making it among the most advanced in the world.
“Many of our TAFEs boast Advanced Welding Training Centres that feature state-of-the-art augmented reality welding simulators,” Crittenden said.
“Here at Weld Australia, we continue to deliver training in accordance with the internationally recognised standard for welding supervisors, inspectors and engineers—our enrolment numbers have more than doubled over the last three years.
“Given all this, it should come as no surprise that Australia is home to some of the world’s most high-quality, high-tech manufacturers – from Bombardier (now known as Alstom) who manufacture trains and trams in Melbourne, through to Austal who is one of the top ship builders in the world.”
Crittenden says that Australian governments have a responsibility to ensure public assets and infrastructure are safe and reliable.
“Their procurement policies must take into account the ‘whole of life cost,’” he said. “The cheapest upfront cost is not necessarily the cheapest whole of life cost. Nor is it the most reliable and safe for the public.
“Australian fabricators are not only trained and certified to the highest international standards—making them more than capable of manufacturing our assets and infrastructure—but because they are locally based, it is easy for government engineers to verify their processes and quality.”
This ongoing verification is used by the Department of Defence for defence projects, while Transport for NSW employs the process for each bridge constructed in the state, Crittenden said.
“Every piece of infrastructure is quality checked throughout the manufacturing and installation phases,” he said. “There is no reason why state governments couldn’t do the same for assets like trams and ferries—they just need to award the contracts to local suppliers.
“We need a commitment from our governments to increase levels of local content for all procurement decisions. We need to bring home the manufacture of goods like trams and ferries. There really is no reason for our governments not to onshore this manufacturing work—Australian manufacturers are ready, willing and more than capable.”