A new deal plan for manufacturing – the month that pointed the way forward

Comment by Peter Roberts

When I launched our campaign to crowd source a new deal plan for manufacturing on April 14 I was hopeful of a positive response.

But I never expected the groundswell of ideas and innovations that we have published day by day since then.

The Australian Manufacturing Forum and @AuManufacturing news and media received close to 50 substantial submissions from members and readers, numerous emails and phone calls, and hundreds of comments via our social media group that revealed a yearning for something better than we have today.

Submissions came from manufacturers big and small, consultants and supplier sectors, industry bodies, special interest groups, the many excellent groups out there working with the sector, academics, policy specialists and educators.

We know the campaign has made its mark because readership of our @AuManufacturing news site has quadrupled in the past month. Yes, quadrupled.

The metrics and feedback I have had is that articles were widely shared and read by our communities, by thought leaders and by decision makers in governments right up to the ministerial level.

Some articles, in particular Roy Green’s five building blocks for a new plan have become the guiding force for the taskforce charged by Canberra with charting a course for manufacturing, led by former Dow chemical global CEO Andrew Liveris.

I can tell you the terrific contributions we published were followed closely, and acted as a reference point for what has been a developing, behind the scenes national debate.

Even the Australian Financial Review, where I worked for 27 years, reported on the manufacturing debate.

On behalf of my journalistic partner Brent Balinski and myself, a heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you for your thoughtful contributions.

Your knowledge and your passion and your achievements are what gives us confidence that Australian manufacturing really can have a great future.

This wisdom of our Australian manufacturer crowd is now being distilled by a group of AMF volunteers led by Jon Hayward-Wright into a new deal plan.

Members of this grass roots group includes Patrizia Torelli, CEO of the Australasian Furnishing Association, Ditta Zizi, a company director with deep experience in the public sector, and Ingo Weidman, a senior manufacturing executive.

The starting point in the thinking of our Australian manufacturer community, as Lance Worrall summarises today (here), is that in 2020 Australia simply does not have a national industry policy.

Our next steps are to complete our new deal plan, publish it to members and readers, and to forward it onto the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission established by the Prime Minister on March 25.

Professor Green, a member of the Liveris taskforce, has kindly agreed to deliver our plan to the committee.

On behalf of all AMF members and readers of @AuManufacturing, we wish Liveris and Green, and fellow members who include AiG’s Innes Willox, good luck with their deliberations.

We cannot know whether our plan will change the course of the future.

The national commission, the minister and finally Cabinet will take their turn.

Already the economic rationalist enemies of manufacturing are trying to guide the debate towards tweaking the current system, perhaps a little aid to companies making medical masks or hand sanitiser, as the only acceptable outcome.

But the Australian manufacturer community has spoken.

We call for a genuine new deal plan for manufacturing.

We call for a plan that values leadership and entrepreneurship, that creates skills, nurtures innovation and dynamism, and establishes the institutions, policies, initiatives and incentives to shift our economy from one resembling Australia in 1920 to one that looks more like Taiwan, or Germany, or Israel.

Perhaps Australian manufacturing has begun to find its voice again after decades of shrinkage and policy hostility.

Let us all make sure we continue to make our voices heard until we achieve our goals.

@AuManufacturing’s new deal plan for manufacturing is brought to you with the support of Bosch Australia Manufacturing Solutions

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