MANUFACTURING Australia is taking the bold tack of highlighting Australia's distinct manufacturing advantages, rather than focusing on its immediate challenges, in a move driven by the association's new chairman.
Manufacturing Australia (MA) chairman Sue Morphet stepped into the role a few weeks ago and immediately congratulated the Federal Government and Opposition on "significant progress made on some reforms to support Australia's manufacturing sector, notably in the anti-dumping area" over the past year.
Ms Morphet, who was formerly CEO of Pacific Brands and fought to save manufacturing jobs by keeping most of the group's high profile manufacturing in Australia, despite having to relinquish many of its clothing brands to China production, took over from Dick Warburton, who retired at the end of 2012.
Ms Morphet said while MA, a business coalition of Australia's biggest manufacturers, congratulated Australia's political leaders and those in the wider industry "who have helped realise these reforms" but warned "now is not the time to pause for reflection".
She said manufacturing is the value-adding lifeblood of a balanced Australian economy.
"Through job creation, import replacement and maximising the value of our natural resources, manufacturing delivers tremendous benefits to the nation," Ms Morphet said. "MA members share a common goal: to create and retain Australian manufacturing jobs, by growing our sector and working with governments and stakeholders to address the challenges facing many manufacturing industries. This will be achieved through broad innovation, good policy and workplace flexibility.
"We stand for a fair level playing field, a sound commercial and regulatory environment that attracts investment and a representative voice to raise the calibre of national debate on the issues affecting the sector."
Ms Morphet is advocating sensible, strategic public policies that encourage Australian manufacturing to grow the sector's capacity, create jobs and maximise the value returned to all Australians.
MA has developed a policy document, Australia's Manufacturing Advantage, which it has distributed to government. The strategy outlines three key policies that can make a real difference to the competitiveness and sustainability of Australian manufacturing.
"Through smart policy and strategic investments, our sector can in the next decade directly and indirectly create 100,000 new jobs and drive a manufacturing resurgence throughout rural, regional and outer-suburban Australia," Ms Morphet said.
She said MA intends to continue working with the Australian Federal and State Governments as well as industry to ensure fair and appropriate industry policies, and to secure the future of this sector.
The three areas for manufacturing reform identified by the MA report are:
AUSTRALIA'S ENERGY ADVANTAGE
Australia is an energy and resources superpower. Currently, domestic energy policies largely fail to capitalise on this energy advantage. Unlike countries that identify and exploit their natural advantages, Australia is squandering its own.
MA believes that Australia can seize its energy advantage by:
Creating a domestic gas market that enables value-adding manufacturing alongside gas exports;
Ensuring electricity reforms prioritise maintaining Australia's energy advantage;
Making the Renewable Energy Target a percentage, not an absolute number; and,
Removing the disadvantage of introducing a carbon tax that is not consistent with Australia's trading partners.
RESTORING FAIR TRADE
Australia is a trade orientated economy that has prospered over the last 30 years by pursuing an open trade agenda. Mismanagement of open trade can easily lead to unintended consequences such as dumping and exclusion of domestic manufacturers from domestic markets. This undermines fairness and limits growth and development in domestic manufacturing.
MA is seeking fair outcomes for trade exposed industries which will operate within World Trade Organisation guidelines and allow Australia's manufacturing sector to grow.
MA has identified three priority areas for action by Federal and State Governments:
Overhaul coastal shipping regulations to ensure Australian manufacturers are not disadvantaged.
Strengthen anti-dumping powers to stop predatory dumping and circumvention of dumping duties by foreign importers, address currency manipulation and provide redress against subsidies to foreign manufacturers.
Strengthen industry participation schemes to remove ‘gaming' and ensure they meet their intended aim of boosting Australian involvement in major projects.
INVESTING FOR MANUFACTURING GROWTH
To grow Australian manufacturing, two significant obstacles must be overcome. First, industry, governments and communities alike must shift the perception that manufacturing in Australia is a ‘sunset' industry whose future will be marked by continued decline. Second, government policy settings should recognise and address unfair barriers currently placed on domestic manufacturers.
MA has identified five priority areas for action by Federal and State Governments:
Maximise competitiveness through investment in infrastructure.
Promote research and development.
Strengthen industry-linked training to up-skill Australia's manufacturing workforce.
Increase the flexibility of Australian manufacturing workplaces.
Strengthen regulations that stimulate demand and remove the burden of regulations that do not.