Australian Manufacturers to Receive $1.5 Billion Budget Boost

Australian Manufacturers to Receive $1.5 Billion Budget Boost
Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House on Aug. 26, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. (Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

Australian manufacturers across six priority areas will receive more help to expand in high-value areas through an almost $1.5 billion budget boost.

But Labor has accused the government of neglecting the sector for the best part of a decade.

The prime minister on Oct. 1 unveiled the coalition’s manufacturing strategy, which targets mining, food and drink, medical products, recycling and clean energy, defence and space.

Industry-led teams of experts will design road maps for each area by April next year, with goals for the next two, five and 10 years.

“People have talked about picking winners. No. We’re setting priorities,” Morrison told the National Press Club in Canberra.

He argued industrial relations reforms, lower taxes, cutting energy costs and boosting training would help all manufacturing businesses.

The government will make the vast majority of almost $1.5 billion of manufacturing spending in Tuesday’s federal budget available for grants.

Major projects boosting collaboration, turning manufacturers’ ideas into products and supply chain integration will share in up to $1.3 billion of grants over four years.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the plan came from the same party which had dared the car industry to leave Australia.

“The only thing that Scott Morrison has managed to manufacture in his time in government is announcements, rather than actually manufacturing jobs,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said there was merit in the six priority areas but cautioned against excluding yet to be discovered industries.

“Industrial success is full of surprises and it is critical that we do not disadvantage businesses from succeeding outside the selected areas,” he said.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union is calling for a seat on the industry-led panels drafting the road maps.

National secretary Steve Murphy said 61,000 jobs in the sector were lost between March and June, as he floated redirecting $18 billion in energy spending to manufacturing.

“The best 10-year plan in the world is meaningless if manufacturing businesses keep collapsing at that rate. We need immediate action to support our industry,” he said.

A further $107.2 million will identify supply chain vulnerabilities of critical goods and services with medicines and medical equipment the initial focus.

Food, chemical and plastics will follow, while cash will be made available for businesses to address issues in supply chains.

A manufacturing modernisation program will be extended by a further $52.8 million, with industry expected to spend $3 for every dollar the government invests.

The scheme will fast-track technology upgrades and allow up to 150 local businesses to invest in ready-to-start projects.

By Matt Coughlan