Manufacturing Call to Arms as Victorian Jobs Go

By AAP
May 14, 2020 Updated: May 14, 2020

Victoria’s opposition has appealed to the government to invest $1 billion in manufacturing, amid the loss of 127,100 jobs in April, driven by COVID-19.

Victoria shedding more 127,000 jobs last month has fuelled calls from the opposition for a $1 billion fund to reboot manufacturing in the state.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien has proposed the idea after Australia Bureau of Statistics data released on Thursday showed the state lost 127,100 jobs in April as the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, pandemic wrought havoc.

Victoria’s unemployment rate rose from 5.2 percent in March to 6 percent last month, bringing it on par with NSW.

The national jobless rate for April was 6.2 percent.

O’Brien says Victoria was once the “manufacturing heartland of the country,” but has lost 50,000 jobs in the sector over 20 years.

Investing $1 billion could help the state government turn things around, he argues.

“It’s always going to be driven by the private sector, but the state government does have a role to play,” he said from a marine vessel parts manufacturer in Melbourne’s southeast.

“This pandemic gives us a chance to hit the reset button. This pandemic gives us a chance to back our manufacturers.”

He said the curve of coronavirus spread has been flattened, but so too has the economy.

“That’s why it’s time for bold thinking,” he said.

The opposition wants the state to focus first on shoring up its supply chains for equipment such as medical tests, which it has had to seek from elsewhere during the pandemic.

It can then help existing exporters ramp up their reach, they argue.

Before the release of the figures, Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan stressed Victoria was not unique in grappling with the economic fallout of COVID-19.

“Every state, every territory, every jurisdiction around the world is experiencing significant levels of economic challenges and associated job losses as a result of this virus,” she said.

But she noted the state has provided more than $3 billion in support measures and is considering more.

“We’ve flagged that we need to look at what else can be done into the future, as we consider how we are able to contain the virus … and support businesses and workers who rely on those jobs,” she said.

More than half of the state government’s $3 billion coronavirus support measures are dedicated to businesses, including full payroll refunds and waivers for small business.

A government spokesperson told AAP further support for the manufacturing sector would be announced “in due course.”

Modelling has shown that unemployment could climb to a peak of 11 percent in Victoria in the September quarter.

By Marnie Banger