Minister Envisions ‘Australian-Made’ Future as Businesses Reassess China Risk

May 20, 2020 Updated: May 20, 2020

Industry minister Karen Andrews is hoping to galvanize Australia’s manufacturing sector as businesses grapple with the aftermath of the CCP virus.

Meanwhile, defence expert Michael Shoebridge believes that Australian businesses will need to reassess their reliance on the China market.

Bringing Innovation to Manufacturing

Andrews, the minister for industry, science, and technology, said that she is hoping traditional manufacturers can follow the route of tech start-ups, which have focused on innovation and disruption.

According to Andrews, the pandemic has already shown that manufacturers can be fleet-footed and adapt to changing business conditions, with many shifting their operations to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitisers.

Andrews wrote on Twitter on April 1:

“Aussies manufacturers are stepping up to make sure we have enough supplies for our frontline health workers during the coronavirus pandemic. We’re increasing the numbers of masks being made in Australia from a few million a year to up to 200 million.”

Andrews is also hoping to see more value-added work in Australia saying that the virus will force businesses to shift from a “fast, disposable, retail approach” to a focus on “quality over quantity,” she told the National Press Club on May 20.

However, the minister cited over-regulation as the biggest issue, highlighting the need to simplify regulation.

“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 is simply not good enough,” Andrews said.

“Things that would normally take years, can actually be achieved in weeks when the will is there,” she said.

China’s Economy Cannot Revive Australia

Michael Shoebridge of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute told The Epoch Times on May 18 that China’s struggling economy and the regime’s recent actions will force businesses to reassess their approach to the market.

Currently, 26.4 percent of Australia’s two-way trade is with China, followed by 9.9 percent with Japan, and 8.6 percent with the United States.

China is also Australia’s largest barley market, with almost 50 percent of barley exports (worth $917 million) going to the country each year.

Shoebridge said there has been “lazy thinking” from government and businesses expecting the China market to revive Australia’s economy as it did after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

He was pessimistic that the Chinese regime itself could rebound from the virus, and said it was too laden with debt to replicate the widespread infrastructure spending (US$584 billion) that pushed it through the GFC.

Epoch Times Photo
Workers walk past a construction site of residential buildings by property developer Country Garden in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China on Sept. 17, 2019. (Wong Campion/Reuters)

“They now have their own post-pandemic economic problem, which is their consumer demand is depressed, their global manufacturing markets are depressed, and the stimulus tools that they “got out of jail” with in the GFC are pretty much exhausted. So that is a triple-whammy for China,” he said.

According to Shoebridge, corporate strategists and business owners now need to contend with China’s weakening consumer spending, and also potential intervention from the state—which played out with the regime’s implementation of tariffs on Australian barley, and the banning of imports from four Australian abattoirs.

Plans to Decouple from China

Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells told The Epoch Times on May 11 that she was pushing for an economic “Plan to Decouple” and a “Plan for Reparations” with the Chinese regime.

She said Australia needed to develop and maintain a robust manufacturing base to provide “strategic goods and services” including essential medical and pharmaceutical equipment.

Epoch Times Photo
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (L), arrives for the opening of 48th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Apia, Samoa on Sept. 5, 2017. (Keni Lesa/AFP via Getty Images)

“We need to rely less on China for our economic development and wellbeing and turn to our regional democratic neighbours to build our trading relations and prosperity,” she said.

She said the Chinese regime had used the pandemic to strengthen its power over its people, rather than work at stemming the spread of the virus.

“The underlying centered philosophy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is not people… but power,” she said.

“If the CCP was people-centred it would not be imprisoning more than 1 million Uyghurs in ‘re-education camps’; imprisoning millions of Falun Gong practitioners and utilising their bodies for organ harvesting; imprisoning human rights activists; as well as suffocating democracy in Hong Kong; and aggression against Taiwan,” Fierravanti-Wells told The Epoch Times.