(Australian Associated Press)
Businesses should buy Australian-made products based on quality even if they’re more expensive, the minister responsible for manufacturing believes.
Industry Minister Karen Andrews wants to boost Australian manufacturing post-coronavirus after the pandemic showed how nimble the sector was in filling gaps in the market.
Ms Andrews believes the sector is shifting away from the “fast, disposable” retail approach towards quality over quantity.
“This sort of disruption would, indeed, be a great opportunity for Australian manufacturing to compete on value – not cost,” she told the National Press Club on Wednesday.
Businesses will have tight budgets after the coronavirus crisis but Ms Andrews hopes they will choose Australian-made based on its reliability.
“There will be times when each and every one of us, businesses included, will need to buy on a price basis, they will be looking for the lowest cost,” she said.
“But what those businesses have experienced is that they actually had some difficulties with supply during the crisis because they could not get the materials that they needed.
“When they look at their longevity as a manufacturer, look at how you’re going to shore up your own supply chains. And look to whether or not you can source that product from Australia.”
Mining, agriculture technology, critical minerals processing, food and beverage manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, medical technology and the space industry as well as waste and recycling are areas the government hopes to grow.
Ms Andrews has tasked CSIRO to look at Australia’s potential to manufacture vaccines, saying she hopes a coronavirus vaccine could be made locally.
The minister says the country exports far too much of its raw materials, pointing to the potential for an onshore lithium battery industry.
She also wants red tape to be cut.
“Manufacturing Australia cite the fact that a factory can be proposed, approved, built and operational in America in less time than it takes to jump the very first approval hurdle in Australia. That’s simply not good enough,” Ms Andrews said.
Australian Industry Group has welcomed the minister’s push for manufacturing but says it must be balanced with being a trading nation.
“Building greater resilience is best achieved by developing more competitive domestic capabilities and by harnessing the benefits of international trade and investment to enhance and complement those capabilities,” Ai Group chief Innes Willox said.
“Greater and more sustainable resilience will not come by insulating Australia from international engagement and competition.”