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Manufacturing slowdown a further warning against complacency.

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CRAIG EMERSON Member for Rankin


2 June 2003

Manufacturing slowdown a further warning against complacency

A sharp slowdown in Australian manufacturing is a further warning to a complacent government that its hands-off industry policy is failing.

After months of welcoming and defending record trade deficits and a slump in Australia’s manufactured exports, Trade Minister Mark Vaile has conceded that last week’s record $3.1 billion deficit was ‘not good’.

Yet just four months earlier he welcomed the then record $3.0 billion trade deficit as signalling “investor confidence in the future growth of the Australian economy”.

Will the sharp fall in the Australian Industry Group’s manufacturing index announced today shake the Government out of its complacency?

ANZ Bank economist Saul Eslake recently commented that exports of manufactured goods had “gone backwards” over the last decade and that:

“There may well be some merit in looking at what role government intervention has played in the car and wine sectors, and whether there is anything that can be translated into other sectors of the economy” (SMH 30/5/2003).

Labor has long supported such an active industry policy to create jobs for the future. It’s time the Government embraced it.

Growth in high-value manufactured exports has slumped more than 60 per cent under the Howard Government.

During what Peter Costello describes as the worst drought in 100 years, primary commodity exports account for 63 per cent of Australia’s merchandise exports, up sharply from the 59 per cent in Labor’s last year in government.

The Howard Government has failed to continue the diversification of Australia’s export base into high-value manufacturing so successfully embarked upon by the previous Labor Government.

Contact: Craig Emerson 0418 781 386 or Brendan Shaw 0413 013 501