Comment by Peter Roberts.
We have all heard tiresome comments such as ‘Australian manufacturing is dead’ and ‘do we still make anything here?’
They come from the ignorant but they also conform to what was accepted wisdom in the community for decades. The good news is we will hear less of that defeatist talk from now on as the sector has emerged from the protectionist era and the resources boom as a source of growth and optimism for the future.
Protectionism was unwound with what were once household names such as Pacific Dunlop collapsing under the weight of their own managerial mediocrity.
The dollar that soared from its historical average around 72 cents to over parity is now a thing of the past.
Even South Australia, which was supposedly to be crippled by last year’s closure of the car industry, added 20,000 manufacturing jobs in the year.
The longer term looks even better with an international study from the World Economic Forum which shows Australia is well positioned with skills and innovation potential to benefit from manufacturing sector growth.
Perhaps these hard times which have not killed us, have actually made us stronger. Buffeted by restructuring pressures for as long as most of us can remember, today’s manufacturer is either in some cosy niche, and good luck to them, or doing something very right indeed.
The Australian Manufacturing Forum, and this @AuManufacturing website, are daily featuring fascinating companies doing great things.
There are genuine Australian global leaders in their field such as AMCOR in flexible packaging, CSL in blood products and vaccines and Ansell in rubber medical and industrial gloves.
Building products firms are booming along with the construction sector, engineering firms are again busy servicing our world-leading mining customers, the food industry is powering ahead and the wine industry with its high quality reputation has grown exports by $1 billion in only five years.
Joining our high-tech leaders Cochlear and ResMed are a raft of exciting young companies in fields ranging from medtech to defence, communications, space and the industrial internet of things. One of my favourites is Silanna semiconductor whose communications chips are found on NASA’a Mars rover and other deep space probes.
And there are newly booming fields such as defence and manufacturing associated with solar and wind renewable energies.
Austal ships is our largest locally-owned defence contractor. As well as its aluminium ferries, it has orders for billions of dollars worth of Littoral Combat Ships and fast-transports from the US Navy.
Australia’s manufacturing sector makes more than $100 billion a year of products – so yes, Australia still does make things.
It is true manufacturing makes up only 6.6% of gross domestic product today, compared to 25 per cent in the 1960s. But it is certainly not dead.
We can be proud of Australian manufacturing, and we know there is so much more good news to come.
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