A Future Made in Australia: Deepening Australia’s Economic Complexity


I want to acknowledge that today we gather on Gadigal land. 

It is an absolute pleasure to be with you all here today thanks to April and AmCham. 

Australia and the US share so many similarities, shared historical moments, abiding partnerships in business, government and civil society - its why we are such great friends and firm allies as nations. 

As Minister for Industry and Science I’m particularly excited about the deepening levels of cooperation between our two nations that will continue to see us partner together in technology collaboration, the clean energy transition and advanced manufacturing.  

However, we also share a similar past, as settler nations with a history of dispossession of the first inhabitants. 

A past that in Australia continues to result in unacceptable levels of Indigenous disadvantage to the present day. 

Australians soon will have a chance to address the injustices of the past and provide a path forward for tackling that ongoing disadvantage. 

Of course, Australia and the U.S. share more positive attributes too. 

We are both nations whose economic prosperity has often been propelled forward in moments of big ideas and big national endeavours. 

Endeavours that required multiple parts of Australian society to come together. 

Projects that require investment and ingenuity across many sectors.  

Everyone knows about the great nation building project that was the Snowy Mountains Scheme. 

More recently was the national effort to combat COVID-19 – governments, universities, manufacturers, citizens – coming together to survive and learn from a pandemic.

And ahead of us lies an even bigger national endeavour- the green energy transition – that is requiring shared investment and ingenuity from us all. 

Policy is shaped by the times it sits in.  

For us, a pandemic, geopolitics, the pressing need to reach a net zero future are all turning convention and orthodoxy on its head. 

That in turn requires a change in how we approach industry policy in Australia. 

Industry policy with a goal of more Australian workers making more things in Australia using Australian know-how and Australian resources. 

Of course, there are those who criticise this new dynamic approach. 

They seem to be sticking to economic ideas that were in fashion in the 80s, the era of big hair, even bigger shoulder pads. 

They say things like “why have a battery industry in Australia, let’s just focus on what we’ve always done best, raw materials production.” 

It seems that if you can chop it, dig it, grow it and then ship it then that’s enough.  

That our prosperity rests solely on the fortunate intersection of geology and geography. 

But guess what, we can do both. We have made and will continue to make a lot of money from mining and agriculture, but the next chapters of our economic evolution will centre on our ability to value add. 

Australia has had a fantastic economic run for most of the last three decades.

We’ve capitalised well on our natural resources strengths and we’ll continue to do so into the future.  

Yet, Australia’s ongoing success will also be dependent on how we use Australian know-how - on how we value add.  


Growth, jobs and the flexibility to respond to economic shocks will come from making more things in Australia.

Value-Add means doing things differently.  It means reimagining how things are done.  It means coming up with good ideas then turning them into reality.

We’ve got catching up to do. 

Over the last decade alone, national manufacturing output has declined by more than 4 per cent, compared with a 26 per cent rise in the broader economy. 

Australia has the highest dependency on manufactured imports and the lowest level of manufacturing self-sufficiency of any OECD country, indicating deficits in Australia’s sovereign capabilities.

In less than 30 years Australia has fallen 38 places in Harvard’s Economic Complexity Index.  We now reside a lowly 93rd out of 133 countries more than 50 places below the country we most like to compare ourselves with, Canada.   

And while we’ve fallen other countries have moved up. 

The huge gains made by middle countries over the last 25 years are those who have decided to become the manufacturers of high-tech items.  They are countries that have seen marrying research and development to manufacturing as being a great national purpose. 

The impact of our loss in sovereign capabilities has been brought home starkly to every Australian in recent years.  

Every business in this room well remembers the impact of supply chain stresses caused by the COVID pandemic. 

And I’m sure every single person in this room remembers the stresses of disrupted supply chains – the shortages of PPE in the first months of the pandemic and the mad scramble for RAT tests over the summer of 21/22.   

They showed us that when we really needed things we just couldn’t get them. 

If we are to address risks like these we need to rebuild our industrial capacity. 

Doing so will also help us seize the once-in-a-generation economic opportunities emerging from the global energy transition.

We cannot meet our net zero targets, we cannot transform our energy landscape, we cannot help fight climate change without Australian manufacturing at the core of our efforts. 

Battery storage, wind turbines, solar panels all are needed - and we have the ability to make them here if we are just willing to grasp it. 

That’s why earlier this year for example, I announced that we’d started work on our National Battery Strategy. 

We are determined to play a bigger part in global battery industries, and not just as a supplier of choice for the raw materials. To deepen the value chain. 

I want to see us grow from our strengths and develop domestic battery industries that will support our transition to net zero and help our friends and allies on their journey as well.

And importantly, I want it to create good quality jobs for highly skilled Australian workers who will be making the batteries and components that the vehicles, houses and electricity networks of the future will need in greater and greater numbers.


The imperative for change is obvious.  

But can we do it? 

I truly believe we can.

But to do so, we must overcome some of our natural impulses as a nation and some of the myths we’ve told ourselves for decades. 

We often like to think of Australia as a nation that has a go. 

But Australia is more than having a go. 

It’s about being great. 

Australia as the place that “has a go” sells us short. That’s actually not our history.  

Our history is one of achievements in outsize proportion to our size. Triumph in the face of adversity. Abundance from scarcity. Invention. Re-invention. 

People say we can’t compete in manufacturing because of distance and scale. 

But, when has scale or distance ever stopped Australians from competing in other fields?

In sport, in health, in culture we punch above our weight.  

We overcome scale when we dream big in fields right across the spectrum. 

15 Australians have won the Nobel Prize. 

We commonly win the Booker Prize, Oscars, Emmys, Science Olympiads, – you name it and an Australian has won it. 

And I’m sure I don’t need to mention our most popular sporting team’s outsize achievements over the past month. 

We don’t let scale and distance defeat us in these fields – we expect success.

In every other arena, Australians expect to be the best. 

We’re proud of our stamp on the world stage, despite being thousands of kilometres away and facing populations many times our size. 

We need to do this with our ideas and manufacturing investments too. 

With the right energy and ambition, we can be a leader in advanced manufacturing. 

And we do this by setting our goals on this great national challenge.  

That’s why this government isn’t just about competing with today’s industries, as important as that remains. 

This government is about creating conditions for the industries of tomorrow. 

We can enjoy the highest standard of living in the world by drawing on all our national resources, in our mines and paddocks AND in our factories and laboratories.


The Albanese Government is not interested in merely following the same old policies towards industry and transformation going the same old route that Australia has taken in recent decades. 

Scores of competing programs doling out little bits and pieces of money here and there – programs used for political purposes rather than national interest.  

Same old, same old isn’t going to cut it.

Australia’s very poor performance on research and development spend in recent years is a direct result of that patchwork of policies and programs. 

Future job creation, productivity and prosperity will hinge on research investment and new knowledge.

That’s why the Albanese Government has embarked on an ambitious series of mutually reinforcing initiatives to drive our industrial renewal. 

We are replacing that broken architecture with the crucial linkages and policy focus we need to create an ecosystem the reinforces our national priorities. 

Providing the right frameworks so that business will be confident to invest in the industries of the future.  

Supporting the great minds in our universities as they turn research into opportunity.

It starts with our $392 million Industry Growth Program, announced in the Budget, delivering advice and capital support for small firms to help turn great ideas into growing businesses. 

Translating new knowledge into practical everyday use is crucial for economic growth and competitiveness.

And it will grow the pipeline of investment-ready businesses for the centrepiece of our plan: The $15bn National Reconstruction Fund.

A fund that at its heart is about value-adding to our natural strengths and comparative advantages; leveraging our know-how onshore, across seven clearly identified national priorities. 

We are not doing everything, we are focussed on important things that will drive future prosperity. 

The NRF will help overcome the challenge of scale I spoke about earlier, providing more growth capital to capable manufacturers through loans, guarantees and equity injections. 

As a co-investment fund it will provide a mechanism to leverage one of our other great national resources, our deep pool of onshore capital including the $3.4 trillion superannuation system. 

The other week we took further steps to get the NRF moving as quickly as possible, when I announced the independent Board which will guide the investment decisions of the NRF. 

A technologically advanced manufacturing society needs to not just concentrate on how we can make things here but on setting the priorities that we should focus on too.  

Research is the key to this and Australia can’t afford to be left behind – it must be done here, and built upon here, to ensure economic growth, societal well-being, and national security.

It’s why the Government is getting our house in order in the science portfolio so it can also support the great national project I have described.

Updating Australia’s National Science and Research Priorities, which haven’t been touched since 2015. 

Streamlining our List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest, and doubling down on areas of Australian technology leadership, like quantum and biotechnologies amongst others. 

The purpose of the list is to align Australia’s critical technologies ecosystem and support greater coordination across government activity. 

The Albanese government released Australia’s first National Quantum Strategy earlier this year. 

It strives to translate Australia’s decades-long research edge, into leading industries.

Because high tech capability translates into new manufacturing opportunities.

Focus like this will be crucial to uplifting our economic complexity.

That’s why I appreciate the philosophy, if not all the specifics behind the report the BCA released on Monday.   

This represents a significant, fundamental shift in the BCA’s thinking on industry policy.

They recognise what we have been saying for years.

It’s a direct challenge to those who don’t want this type of industry policy. 

The BCA can also play an absolutely vital role in spurring on greater business investment in R&D. AmCham can do this with its members too.

Government can put the resources in to back the scientific and research effort, but we will go a lot further with business adding muscle and drive through its own preparedness to scale up good ideas, to strengthen longer term growth and the health of their own firms and sectors. 


From the United States through to Canada and Europe – governments are refreshing industry policy in particular in the race to net zero. 

The most talismanic of all these policies is of course the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act.  

Not since the Paris Accords has a single action made such a big difference to the debate around climate change and our response to it. 

By focusing on the jobs and opportunity that comes from responding to the climate crisis the IRA has shown everyone just what is possible when a government puts its shoulder to the wheel.

And it should be gratifying to all here today, that Australia and the US are committed to deepening cooperation to address the climate crisis through the implementation of the agreement signed earlier this year by Prime Minister Albanese and President Biden. 

Will our industrial performance be easy to turn around? 

No, it will not. 

This is hard work and it’s going to be patient work to deepen our economic complexity. 

But if there’s anything the last four weeks have shown us, it’s that Australia knows hard work. 

We can – and do – compete with the best. 

That self-belief is essential to do the patient work too. 

The Albanese Government believes in a thriving future for Australian industries. 

We’re in it for the long haul. And we know you are too.