Interview with Sky News, First Edition with Peter Stefanovic
1 October 2020
Subject: Modern Manufacturing Strategy
Peter Stefanovic: Well, let’s head back to Canberra now, this is our top story of the morning that $1.5 billion will be spent to save the manufacturing sector in Australia. And joining me is the Industry Minister Karen Andrews. Minister, good to see you, thanks so much for joining us. So, I guess there is, or can be, a perception here that you may be seen to be just picking winners – are you?
Karen Andrews: No, we are not. We are making it very clear that there are some key sectors where Australia has been able to demonstrate that it has comparative and competitive strengths, and there are also some sectors that we have identified that are important from a strategic point of view. Now, I think all Australians would recognise that one of our key strengths has been in the mining and resources sector, so we have identified the mining - the resources technology as a priority area for us, as we have identified critical minerals processing. We've also identified food and beverage. About 25 per cent of our manufacturing here in Australia is food related, so we have some clear strengths there. We've also demonstrated, particularly during COVID, that with medical products, and that includes our manufacturing of vaccines, that we have strengths and we have the opportunity to develop that. And the other areas are areas of strategic importance, and they include defence, they include space, we're also focussing on recycling and, of course, clean energy. So these are strategic and comparative advantages. We've gone down the path; successive governments have gone down the path of trying to be all things to all people. This is clearly setting a very positive way forward in some key priority areas where we can build some resilience, and where we can build some scale, and we can make sure that our manufacturing industries are competitive.
Peter Stefanovic: With the onset of technology, though, won't that mean job losses, long-term, as we kind of switch more to machinery?
Karen Andrews: Jobs will be different, quite clearly, but jobs have changed over the past 10, 20, 30 years.
Peter Stefanovic: [Talks over] What do you mean? What do you mean by that?
Karen Andrews: Well, there will be a focus on technology, but if you go into a modern manufacturing plant now, you won't see the dirty production floors, you will actually see quite a high tech environment. And the operators who are operating that equipment already have a high level of skills, so it's very different to the old foundry days. And unfortunately, a lot of people think of manufacturing purely as the dirty production process in the middle. But production now is already high tech and jobs will be different. And in manufacturing, we've got research and development, we've got design, we've got production, then we've got the sales and the marketing, transport. All of that is part of manufacturing, and what we're trying to do with this strategy is build the scale that we need in key priority areas.
Peter Stefanovic: So can you guarantee that these taxpayer funds will lead to more jobs?
Karen Andrews: The evidence is that, by injecting funds into priority areas, we will be able to do that. But I can assure you that I am very focused on making sure that we deliver. So, this is not just an announcement about the dollars; if you look behind it, there is significant detail about the strategies as to how we're going to develop our scale, how we’re going to commercialise ideas, how we're going to build resilience here in Australia. But the next stage is going to be the road-mapping process, which is going to be led by industry. So, we need to make sure that industry is leading this. This is the road to recovery from COVID, and it's really important that industry is leading this.
Peter Stefanovic: How many extra jobs will this lead to?
Karen Andrews: There - look, there's been various projections, what we do know is that it's probably going to be, in the order, of around about, at a very conservative level, probably around about 80,000 direct jobs in manufacturing over a 10-year period. Now, we also know that for each direct manufacturing job, there will be 3.6 indirect jobs in manufacturing. So, you can start to multiply that out, and it has enormous potential. But we're going to be able to define that a lot more when we start to see the projects coming in, because that will give us a better indication of the scale and the jobs that will be coming in. So, they are really only ballpark figures based on the jobs that have come through previous funding programs.
Peter Stefanovic: Critics will argue, Minister, and they have argued already, that it's a bit rich for the Government to be crowing about manufacturing when car making closed on the Coalition's watch.
Karen Andrews: You know, I listened to your interview with Jason Clare, and can I say, I have never heard so much tripe said in such a short period of time. Now, unfortunately, the Labor Party of today is a shell of its former self; it has no substance, it has no depth, and it has no vision for the future. That was just a nonsense. And if Jason Clare is watching, let me say to you and the rest of your mates in the Labor Party, that Mitsubishi closed down in Australia in 2008 when you were in government. But the Labor Party can spend as much time as they want looking at the past, I am absolutely focused in the future. And if they don't want to be part of it, they should get out of the way.
Peter Stefanovic: The problem is going to be labour costs though, that's why a lot of businesses and a lot of jobs get shipped offshore. So, how are you going to work up against that?
Karen Andrews: So one of the things that we do know is that we are a high wage nation, we also have significant energy costs. And when you look at our strategy, what we've said is that this actually builds on the work that is already being done right across Government, so this is a whole of Government strategy. So it deals with - the base deals with the likes of skills and training, which has had billions of dollars injected into it, it looks at trade, it looks at energy, it looks at industrial relations. This is the foundation that is going to support every business, every manufacturing business in every sector across Australia. Then on top of that, we have the very clear direction that's been set by this Government of what our priority areas are. But importantly, we have to make sure that we are able to demonstrate that, in Australia, we can manufacture to produce value products. So, our manufacturing has to be value based rather than cost, where it is very difficult for us to compete.
Peter Stefanovic: Okay. Industry Minister Karen Andrews, appreciate your time this morning. Thanks so much for joining us here.
Karen Andrews: Pleasure.