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200,000 jobs at risk if Govt keeps ignoring manufacturing

18 August, 2006

A report from the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research has been launched at the AMWU National Conference, showing that the Australian manufacturing industry will lose more than 200,000 jobs if the Federal Government continues its hands-off approach to industry policy and support for Australian industry.

The AMWU National Secretary, Doug Cameron, also said there are huge levels of dissatisfaction with the Government’s present path in manufacturing and overwhelming support for new policy positions for Government support for Australian manufacturing. He said:

 "The polling shows people are fed up with the Government's neglect of this key part of the economy and their failure to act on behalf of working people. They want a government prepared to stand up for Australian jobs, to fight to ensure we have a viable manufacturing sector.

The “State of Australian Manufacturing” Report outlines a bleak view of the present state of manufacturing:

- The rate of decline of the Australian manufacturing sector in total activity has been sustained at a long term rate of 0.3 percentage points decline per annum.
- In 1979-80 manufacturing value added in GDP was just under 20%, in 2004-05 the share is just about 12%. 
- Over the past 15 years, each $1million increase in real exports has been matched by an almost $4million increase in real imports.
- The manufacturing trade deficit is approaching 15% of GDP.
- Australia’s manufacturing performance is declining relative to OECD best practice, including one of the lowest export shares in total production in the OECD.
- Based on present rates of growth in the economy, and decline in manufacturing, potential jobs losses of 200,000 between now and 2020.

The report also outlines clear and comprehensive policy prescriptions for building Australia’s manufacturing base, including:

- Investment allowances
- Research and development schemes
- Export market development grants schemes
- A technology diffusion program
- An incentive program to attract foreign equity into small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses
- A strategy to attract and train highly skilled labour for advanced technologies. 

The AMWU has also recently conducted polling in 12 marginal federal seats and the research found very strong support for Government action on manufacturing, and dissatisfaction with the Government on the handling of manufacturing:

- 68% of voters do not think the Howard Government have done enough to support industry and keep jobs in Australia.
- 84% of voters think that the Government has the ability to stop the flow of jobs and industries overseas, with only 12% agreeing that jobs losses overseas are a natural part of globalisation.
- 84% agree that if Australia loses its manufacturing base it will start a long term decline in our economy, and 93% agree that it is essential to maintain manufacturing in Australia even if it needs some Government support.
- 75% disagree that Australian companies should be allowed to off shore their work to cut wage costs.

In a rebuff to the Government’s cult of tax cutting budgets, the poll also found that 65% of voters would prefer the Government to use the budget surplus to invest in Australian industry, manufacturing and infrastructure, rather than giving personal tax cuts.

The report by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research paints a bleak picture for manufacturing communities around Australia, and for the future economic health of the nation.

This report puts a compelling position forward about why manufacturing is important for the future of the nation, and why, with Government support, our local industries can grow.

It also shows that without a proper industry policy, the Australian economy faces great challenges in the future, not least of which is the impact of the loss of at least 200,000 well paid, skilled jobs.

This is no longer a policy area that can be ignored. Putting all our hopes into the continued mining boom makes Australia extremely vulnerable.

The public obviously understand these issues, and are crying out for their Government to take a stand and back Australian manufacturing. The public do not believe that the flood of jobs and industries overseas is an inevitable part of living in a globalised economy. They believe that our Government can and should play a role in ensuring the survival of the manufacturing industry.”

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