House debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Manufacturing

2:33 pm

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Will the minister please outline to the House how the Morrison-McCormack government recognises and thanks Australia's manufacturing industry for rising to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, including by supplying critical medical items?

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

I thank the member for his question and acknowledge that manufacturers in his regional electorate were some of the most vital in our response toCOVID-19. In fact, one of the first manufacturers I called back in February was Ray, at Med-Con in Shepparton. At the time, that great family business was the only manufacturer of surgical masks in the country. Working with us, and aided by Defence Force engineers, Ray and his team set about increasing production to provide the masks that we needed. With the help of Foodmach in nearby Echuca, which manufactures new machines, Med-Con increased production from around two million masks a year to over 59 million. Many others have now joined that market too, and this year our nation will produce more than 400 million surgical masks. But it's not just masks that we made. Grey Innovation and ResMed produced the ventilators that we needed. Many small and large distillers pivoted to produce hand sanitiser. Our food manufacturers worked around the clock to meet demand and keep our supermarket shelves stocked.

I thought I'd use this year's last question time to give an example that demonstrates how businesses in the supply chain benefit when we scale up production and take on innovative new projects. One of the projects that we backed in April was a collaboration to produce emergency-relief hospital beds, led by medtech company Stryker South Pacific and three other Aussie businesses. One of those businesses is Fallshaw Group, which makes wheels and castors, a 100-year-old Melbourne based family business. From this collaboration, Fallshaw went on to supply castors to Stryker's international and local teams. They hired six new staff and moved to two production shifts in order to ship 2,000 castors a day to the United States. It's a great example of how traditional companies, through collaborations, can achieve scale and take their product to the world. And that's exactly what our $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy is all about.

A silver lining of this crisis is that Australians have gained a deeper understanding of the vital role of our manufacturers, and there's been a renewed interest in buying Australian-made products. On behalf of a grateful nation, I thank our Aussie manufacturers for their massive contribution this year and for the role they will play in our comeback.