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Election Blues for Manufacturing!

As we head into the 'real' election campaign this week, some commentary may be instructive after listening to the Leaders 'non-event' debate on Sunday night, some other political sparring on Q&A last night, and the comments by the Government Industry Minister on AM this morning about the current state of Australia's manufacturing industry.

First up, neither the PM nor the Opposition Leader have offered any clear idea of how advanced manufacturing or new industry creation (i.e. 'industrialisation') will in fact be advanced in Australia whoever is in government. Whilst the PM waffles on about his 'growth and jobs' plan and his innovation strategy, none of this relates at all to any enunication of substantive industry policy - in short manufacturing currently sits firmly and squarely within a 'policy free' zone. Not that the Opposition is any better based on what has not been revealed so far, and the major industry groups (BCA, Ai Group, ACCI, Advanced Manufacturing Council etc) have added nothing meaningful to initiate any real debate about where this country is heading. In fact, the lack of industry leadership is appalling, and begs the question of what is the role of industry associations if they are not contributing to public debate about the future of the industries and their members which they are supposed to represent.

But I am sure that the PM in response to this critique would point to the establishment of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, which after some 18 months of 'navel gazing', is now represented by a pretty basic web site, a facility which essentially pitches why companies should join up as members!  I also suspect that the PM would not be saying too much about the Innovative Manufacturing CRC, a government program which very sadly has evolved into a 'non event', a situation which has caused considerable industry disappointment amongst its original industry backers.

As for Q&A last night, judged on their contributions to the debate, both the fiery Tasmanian Senator and the Government's Trade Minister sadly demonstrated their ignorance of what is really happening with the onslaught of the new energy revolution, and it was left to the leader of the Greens to clearly spell out the extent of growth and jobs that could be offered in regional areas of Australia by embracing renewables powered generation. Fancy that, a 'left wing' politician espousing the virtues of exploiting emerging market opportunities at a time the so called 'market focused' liberals cannot see it within their powers to establish a "Renewables Growth Centre' as part of their industry programs.

Tuning into AM this morning to listen to  Minister Pyne (an avowed South Australian) waxing away about the prosperous state of the Australian manufacturing industry and the huge benefits being offered by a plethora of FTAs and the like, punters might have been relieved to hear all the 'fantastic' good news, also to be assured that the overseas auto MNCs really had no intention of continuing manufacturing in Australia, no matter how much support could have been offered by government  - alas history is being rewritten in the process! Sadly all the political rhetoric is not backed up by the facts, especially the realisation that FTAs have done and will no nothing to support Australian manufacturing which has been the 'sacrificial lamb' in a political continuum designed to win concessions essentially for primary and tertiary industries. 

One can only hope that June will see some real debate about industry policy and the future of Australian manufacturing, lest the 2nd July may well emerge as the 'winter of our discontent'!

 

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