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Interview with 3AW Breakfast with Ross and Russel

1 October 2020

Ross Stevenson and Russel Howcroft

Subject: Modern Manufacturing Strategy


Ross Stevenson: Victorian medical, food and beverage businesses will become world leaders in a budget plan, costing $1.5 billion, to kick-start the nation’s manufacturing sector and create 300,000 jobs. Karen Andrews is the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Minister, good morning to you. 

Karen Andrews: Good morning. 

Ross Stevenson: Is this COVID-related or would this have happened whether COVID came along or not? 

Karen Andrews: Well, the work was already underway to develop a manufacturing strategy, before COVID. What we did have to do though is revisit that, with what I call the COVID lens and a specific part of this package is related to COVID, which is the resilience part of it. So what do we need to manufacture here in Australia, to meet our needs in times of a crisis? So, that directly came from COVID, but the rest of it has been in progress for many months now. 

Russel Howcroft: So, Minister, tell us why Victoria gets investment in medical, food and beverage and not other sectors? 

Karen Andrews:  Well, there can be investment in all of those priority sectors in Victoria. But, Victoria does have some strengths; most notably, in their food and beverage area and medical products, but certainly, Victoria is not ruled out of anything at all, neither is any state or territory; this is very open. I am very happy to look at all of these six priority industry sectors and how they fit across Australia. So, nothing’s ruled out. 

Ross Stevenson: There’s a whole heap in inner suburban Melbourne, Minister, that is now apartments and cafes and the like because they used to be the factories where we made stuff and we don’t make stuff anymore. My understanding of it, I have no business brain whatsoever, my understanding is because labour is so much cheaper overseas, it gets made over there. So, how will it work if we still have to compete with countries that pay people nothing? 

Karen Andrews:  What this does, this strategy does, is set the new direction for Australian manufacturing. So, we’re not going to continue to be all things for all people; we are clearly saying that these are the priority areas where we already have strength that we can maximise on and we can grow those and particularly, we can look at how we build scale. That’s where the opportunities will come for growth. 

Now, I do understand that people look around and they say: well, there’s not as many factories. But manufacturing is different now to what it was, 10, 20, 30 years ago. A lot of it is very high tech, but in Melbourne, you’ve got the likes of CSL which is a fantastic example of medical manufacturing. You had Grey Innovation step up and put together a consortium to develop and make invasive ventilators for us, during COVID. So, there are some real opportunities there; but, manufacturing is fundamentally different now, to what it was years ago – it’s not just a filthy, dirty production process. 

Russel Howcroft: Yeah. So, Minister, I’m just imagining that I’m a budding medical entrepreneur here in Melbourne. How do I get my hands on some of this money? 

Karen Andrews: Okay. So, what we are doing is we are going through a roadmap process. So, we will be actually talking to the experts in each of these priority areas, to look at what within that is going to be our priority and we’ll be opening the grant funding programs by the middle of next year. 

Russel Howcroft: Grant funding? Okay. 

Karen Andrews: It will be grants, it’s not a subsidy. You know, we’re not here gifting money and what we are looking for is businesses working with other businesses. So, it’s business to business collaboration. We’ll also look at the innovation of new ideas, innovation is a key part of it, but we are really focusing on the building of scale.  

Ross Stevenson: Good on you, Minister. Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.