Economy // International affairs

The economic landscape for the Australian industrial sector

Speech delivered by CEDA Chief Executive, Professor the Hon. Stephen Martin to the AIRG Anniversary Meeting 2015.

Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.

There is little doubt that the Australian economy is undergoing a fundamental restructure, and that this is no more apparent than in respect to its industrial sector. However, since the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) definition is so broad, my comments today are specific to Australia’s manufacturing industry.

And, as I hope to demonstrate, it is advanced manufacturing that does and will increasingly provide an important element in Australia’s economic sustainability.

As noted, I represented the manufacturing centre of Wollongong in the Parliament of Australia during the massive economic and accompanying social restructuring that occurred with the downsizing of the steel and coal industries. I make this point because economic restructuring can have significant consequences for regions, and cities as well as the Australian economy in general.

In recent times we have seen the more traditional forms of manufacturing as represented by mass production and assembly of final products (such as steel and automobiles), progressively being replaced by manufacturers typically engaged in activities which are about variability, complexity and extensive customisation with high value-add.

Watching the emergence of high-tech, high skilled, global supply chain-linked new generation industries, particularly in association with the University of Wollongong, has underscored the fact that the economic landscape for Australia, particularly for manufacturing, has been and will continue to be rapidly transformed.

CEDA has taken a particular interest in this subject, and published a major research report in April 2014 entitled Advanced Manufacturing: Beyond the production line. A number of comments that I will make will be drawn from that report.

But first, let’s set the scene.

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