House debates

Thursday, 30 November 2023


Industry, Science and Resources Committee; Report

12:02 pm

Photo of Michelle LandryMichelle Landry (Capricornia, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I rise today to address the findings of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Resources inquiry into advanced manufacturing and to emphasise the critical importance of supporting our regional manufacturers and strengthening assistance to our small businesses. The committee's careful investigation has shed light on a crucial aspect of our manufacturing landscape. While expressing gratitude for government support, manufacturers, especially small businesses, find that some existing programs for innovation and commercialisation are falling short of the mark. This sentiment echoes the recent report by Industry, Innovation and Science Australia underlining the challenges faced by small businesses in the realm of collaboration and commercialisation.

It is imperative to recognise that the backbone of Australian manufacturing comprises predominantly small businesses, with the majority employing fewer than 20 individuals. These businesses form the bedrock of our economy, and their growth is paramount to our nation's prosperity. The promise of advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence, holds the potential to empower small businesses to compete and grow, which will enhance productivity and create jobs. Yet the committee's insights reveal a stark reality. The steep learning curve, high costs and associated risks serve as formidable deterrents to our small enterprises.

The recommendations presented in the report strive to address these barriers by advocating for investments in common-user facilities and test beds in innovation precincts. The report aims to create an environment where smaller and traditional manufacturers can embark on the Industry 4.0 journey without daunting upfront investments. Furthermore, the report's call to explore and scale up successful education and training programs for SMEs is a crucial step forward. By bringing access to knowledge and skill development we can empower more Australian SMEs to harness the potential of Industry 4.0 technologies, preventing any business from being left behind in this transformative era.

Equally significant are the recommendations urging the government to streamline investment programs and government procurement opportunities for small businesses. The acknowledgement that difficult application processes, unclear guidance and lengthy time frames have an extreme impact on resource-poor businesses is a call for actionable reform.

We must ensure that the avenues of government support are not just accessible but easily understood by our small enterprises. Furthermore, the call for additional exploration of opportunities to support and scale up successful education and training programs for SMEs is a commendable step. This will empower more Australian SMEs to benefit from Industry 4.0 technologies, preventing any businesses from being left behind.

A significant recommendation of the report is the creation of a national advanced manufacturing commissioner, acting as a centralised hub for federal and state government opportunities and support programs. This commissioner could serve as a valuable concierge service for small manufacturers, simplifying the process of navigating available opportunities.

Regional manufacturers face distinct challenges, and our support must be tailored to their local conditions. The committee rightly acknowledges the unique challenges encountered by regional manufacturers, who serve as anchors for local economies. Industries such as food and forestry production, mining, and defence equipment play pivotal roles in the region and are facing challenges like higher energy costs, difficulty in skilled workforce acquisition, lower wages and increased vulnerability to natural disasters and droughts.

Deakin University's insight into the lag in regional manufacturing's transition to high-value production emphasises a need for targeted interventions. The report's recommendation for investment in common-user advanced manufacturing facilities, specifically exploring underutilised land in regional areas, is a step in the right direction. The committee's acknowledgement of the specialisation of regional and rural economies around local anchor industries, such as agriculture or mining, underscores the importance of locally appropriate investments in common-user facilities and innovation precincts. These initiatives must be sensitive to existing industrial capabilities and needs.

The recommendations put forward by the Standing Committee for Industry, Science and Resources are not just a road map for the future of advanced manufacturing—they are a call to action for us to invest wisely, support inclusively and ensure that no business or region is left behind in the transformative journey towards Industry 4.0. Let us seize this opportunity to shape a future where our manufacturers, big and small, urban and regional, stand united in the front of innovation and progress.

In conclusion, my gratitude goes to the secretariat, specifically Lynlee, Tanya and Tessa, for their valuable efforts and support in aiding the committee to compile the inquiry report, Sovereign, smart, sustainable: Driving advanced manufacturing in Australia. Additionally, I extend my thanks to Mr Rob Mitchell, the chair of the committee, for his commitment and collaborative efforts in the pursuit of making Australian manufacturers globally competitive, and the rest of the committee for their input and commitment throughout this inquiry.


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