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Five year low in manufacturing employment growth.

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Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations Member for Perth


1 December 2005


The release today of the November Australian Industry Group - PricewaterhouseCoopers Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) is yet another timely reminder of the Howard/Costello Government’s complacency and neglect of Australia’s manufacturing industry.

Today’s PMI shows the fourth decline of manufacturing activity in five months, with the overall index falling 3.6 points to a low of 44.2 in November, with production, new orders and employment all falling at a rapid rate.

In particular, the index shows that:

• Manufacturing employment fell for the fifth consecutive month, at the fastest rate seen since December 2000; • Small manufacturing enterprises are increasingly at risk.

According to Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Heather Ridout:

“It is clear that industry is restructuring…and this does not auger well for employment growth.”

The continuing adverse trend in manufacturing employment demonstrates that the Howard/Costello Government’s neglect is having a profoundly negative impact on skills formation in the manufacturing industry. This is a tragic indicator of just how badly the Government is failing our nation and leaving Australian industry unprepared for the future.

According to Graeme Billings, Industrial Products Leader with PricewaterhouseCoopers there is a compelling need to invest in new technology, product innovation and the up-skilling of the manufacturing workforce.

The Howard/Costello Government has no plan for Australia’s industrial and manufacturing future and an extreme industrial relations approach will not address these ongoing problems.

Labor believes that it is in our national interest to have a strong and vibrant manufacturing industry. The future of a modern, dynamic, successful manufacturing industry, providing jobs for Australians must be based on a foundation of skills, quality and innovation.

This requires national leadership from the Commonwealth. That is why, as outlined in my paper on Australia’s industrial future1, Labor would:

• Develop a comprehensive national industry strategy; • Revitalise the COAG Industry and Technology Ministerial Council; and • Expand and encourage joint research and development activities to move Australian industry and exports up the value-chain.

This approach is in stark contrast to the Howard Government’s belief that our only choice for international competitiveness is to have New Zealand wage levels today, as if somehow we can have Chinese, Indian and Indonesian wage levels tomorrow.

By adopting a national approach that places an emphasis on innovation, on doing things better, on being smarter and relying on our superior technical and intellectual knowledge, Australia’s manufacturing industry can build back its international competitiveness where currently it is not.

Contact: Courtney Hoogen on (02) 6277 4108 or 0414 364 651