House debates

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Health Manufacturing

2:47 pm

Photo of Nicolle FlintNicolle Flint (Boothby, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison government is supporting Australian health manufacturers as part of our comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic to make our nation more safe and more secure?

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Minister for Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question. Australia entered the global COVID-19 pandemic in a strong position with fairly good supplies of the medical equipment that we needed. But we knew that we needed to ramp up the supply of some of our medical equipment as soon as we possibly could. Specifically what we needed to ramp up was our PPE manufacture.

When this pandemic hit, we had one manufacturer of surgical masks here in Australia and they were producing about two million masks a year. Now, with a lot of support from the government and specifically from the ADF, who went in to support Med-Con in Shepparton to ramp up their production capacity, we now have a number of manufacturers here in Australia. This year alone they will produce about 400 million surgical masks. That is a significant scale-up in Australia's manufacturing capacity, from two million surgical masks a year to 400 million masks this year. But it's not just surgical masks that we have ramped up our manufacturing capacity in; we also now have manufacturers of disposable surgical gowns and we now have manufacturers of high-tech ventilators.

So a lot of work has been done by this government, with support from many manufacturers, to make sure that we are in the position to meet the needs of Australians during the pandemic. That's why there is a key part in our Modern Manufacturing Strategy that looks at how we can enhance and increase our supply chain resilience, because we know that we need to make sure we are in a good position to be able to identify and then manufacture or procure the products that we need in times of crisis.

I have spoken a number of times about how important it is for all levels of government to use their powers of procurement to secure our sovereign capability. And we, as a government, are doing precisely that. Last month we extended our agreement with CSL on flu vaccines and antivenene to take it through to the middle of the next decade. Because of that, CSL will invest about $800 million in new high-tech vaccine manufacturing capability, and this investment will see 520 construction jobs coming online next year and it will lock in a range of high-skilled manufacturing jobs. This government understands how important it is that we invest in manufacturing here in Australia, and that is precisely what we are doing.