Thursday, 2 September 2021
Questions without Notice
COVID-19: Manufacturing Industry
[by video link] My question is to the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Will the minister please outline to the House how sticking to the national plan will support Australian manufacturers to grow, create jobs and secure our economic recovery?
I thank the member for his question, for his support of manufacturers in his electorate and for managing to beam in today. It's good to have you back! There are nearly 100,000 businesses in our manufacturing sector, and they employ over 908,000 Australians. Absolutely central to our manufacturers' ability to survive through COVID and to prosper over the coming years on the other side of COVID is two things, and this is what the manufacturers are consistently telling me. There are two critical parts of their businesses that they absolutely need continuity of access to. They need access to their workforces so as to thrive and survive, and they need access to their markets. What they're telling me is that manufacturing cannot cope with lockdowns forever. There was some very important information that came out in parallel with the national accounts—the Australian Industry Group's Australian performance of manufacturing index. That fell, as it was expected to, in August 2021 to 51.6 points. The way in which that index works is that anything over 50 indicates that manufacturing is growing and in the expansion phase. So that figure, although it had fallen, shows the remarkable ongoing resilience of manufacturing, but it also contains a warning. In fact, there have been 11 consecutive months where there has been expansion of manufacturing, notwithstanding COVID. But while Australia-wide manufacturing activity on average is still in a growth phase right across Australia, the sales and the productivity in manufacturing in New South Wales and Victoria have stalled, as we would expect them to have done, and both of those states reported an index below 50. What we have in these figures is a clear warning that we must have a consistent, clear path charted out of lockdowns in New South Wales and Victoria, and if there's not such a clear path chartered and adhered to, then the lockdowns in New South Wales and Victoria won't just damage manufacturing in those states, they will damage manufacturing right across Australia.
The Morrison government is providing that clear, consistent, known pathway out. We're also providing a plan for the other side to grow the businesses that have the greatest comparative advantages and capacity for growth. I want to mention one of those businesses, as part of our $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy, and that's a great business in Tasmania that has recently received a $5 million grant under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative. It's Elphinstone, in Burnie. What is that business doing? It is developing a range of Australian made and manufactured battery vehicles and support vehicles for mining and underground mining. You can imagine the demand for those sorts of vehicles to replace diesel, which is both dangerous and excessive, in underground settings. So what we have is a clear plan out and a plan for the future.