David Chuter

The manufacturing race that Australia can win

David Chuter

David Chuter

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has plunged our country, and the world, into economic chaos. The impact of the virus has truly challenged the old order and we are being forced to decide what we want the future of Australian manufacturing to look like.

As the fourth largest industry in Australia, manufacturing is critical to rebuilding the health of our economy.

Industry Minister Karen Andrews has recently stated that although COVID-19 highlighted a number of serious sovereign capability gaps, total domestic self-sufficiency shouldn’t be the goal for our future. I agree and believe instead we must mature those niche opportunities that draw on Australia’s own resources and R&D strengths and focus on the manufacturing and broader industrial races we can win, both locally and globally.

This will take inward focus but critically also outward reach. It requires balancing short-term critical initiatives with longer-term strategic needs and will rely on businesses, research organisations and governments working together to increase our industrial capability and capacity.

Manufacturing needs to be recognised as its own vertical industry sector as well as a horizontal key enabler for most primary Australian industry sectors. It plays a crucial role in facilitating technologies, supply chains, accelerating digitalisation and Industry 4.0 (as well as associated new business models) for many industries in Australia.

This shift in understanding will ensure manufacturing is given the correct attention and resources to rebuild and renew – critical, in my view, to ensuring Australia is well positioned to invest in and win the races that matter for our future prosperity.

So, where should our focus lie? The 2019 CSIRO NAB Australian National Outlook provides a compelling outlook vision for a thriving Australia in 2060, with key building blocks being both a national industrial shift and significant investment in manufacturing growth.

It highlights, for instance, healthcare, cyber security, mining, metals, construction, food manufacturing and hydrogen as sectors with potential to strengthen Australia’s competitive advantage.

Once we have identified the critical areas on which to focus our manufacturing time, effort and resources, we need a clear strategy on how to achieve success.