Analysis and Commentary

September, and still no manufacturing policy

Analysis and Commentary

Comment by Peter Roberts

I have been receiving a number of phone calls from colleagues asking me: “what has happened with manufacturing policy?”

Covid-19 has been with us since the beginning of the year, exposing the fragility of our international supply chains and our own inability to cater for our own, even very basic needs.

The government has made all the right noises and has supported some onshoring of production of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks and shields and hospital ventilators.

We all know there is a very serious problem, and manufacturers are doing what they can to make a difference.

Our own readers contributed with a new deal plan for manufacturing submitted in May, in time for consideration by the Liveris manufacturing taskforce of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission.

The commission not long after sent their recommendations to industry minister Karen Andrews…and then they promptly disappeared from view.

We do know that if she does anything, it will be within the current spending envelope – meaning it will be too small an effort to change the trajectory of our two trillion dollar economy.

The industry and defence industry ministers daily release a blizzard of press releases of the ‘Morrison government’s’ commitment to manufacturing, announcing a million dollars here or a few hundred thousands there.

Lots of activity Utopia style, but frankly, not much real action.

Maybe there will be something in the upcoming budget, a rebranding of existing schemes with a nifty slogan of a name to match Job Keeper, Job Maker and so on. All within the current funding envelope of course.

In fact the silence from Canberra on anything really substantial is such that many of us are getting worried that there may not be anything to show for 2020, and certainly no recognition of the need to seriously boost manufacturing and a resetting of industry policy.

The reality is apart from some PPE really nothing has changed. Australia still makes no anaesthetics whatsoever, for example, no rubber surgical gloves and so on.

Beyond these terribly basic needs of our health system are dozens of examples of things we really should be making here, but which we don’t.

Meanwhile we irresponsibly goad China, not only the destination for 50 per cent of our exports, but the very source of the essentials which we don’t bother ourselves to make.

We have all given the ‘Morrison government’ – formally known as the Commonwealth or the federal government – the benefit of the doubt.

But it is now September, and we really need to see genuine action, and soon.

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