Written by Lisa Palu, Associate Director
Making sure Australia keeps making stuff has always been important but last Friday, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison handed the task to Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister, Angus Taylor, the Minister must have felt the weight of yet another enormous responsibility.
Australia has had seven Industry Ministers since the Coalition government was first elected in 2013. Shadow Industry Minister, Ed Husic has helpfully calculated that the average tenure of a Minister in the Industry portfolio during the past eight years has been just 330 days!
In August 2018 when Angus Taylor was sworn in as Minister for Energy, Prime Minister Morrison dubbed him the ‘Minister for getting electricity prices down’. Then in May 2019 after the Coalition was re-elected, the Prime Minister added Emissions Reduction to Angus Taylor’s responsibilities, and gave him the task of meeting the Government’s 2030 emissions targets.
On these two tasks, Minister Taylor said last week he would continue to ensure Australians have access to affordable, reliable energy, while reducing emissions. He said Australia’s emissions were now at 20.8 per cent below 2005 levels, the lowest level since records began in 1990. This means Australia is on track to meet and even beat the Government’s 2030 Paris target, so another big tick for the Minister.
However, the new task on Angus Taylor’s to do list is way more difficult than it has been for any industry minister in recent decades. Not only does the government need to retain Australia’s sovereign manufacturing capability, but it needs to build it and strengthen its resilience at the same time.
COVID-19 continues to expose many fragilities in global supply chains for critical products which ensure the health and safety of Australians.
This gives the Government’s $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy, announced in October 2020 by then Industry Minister Karen Andrews, urgency and gravitas that previous government plans for manufacturing have not had, arguably since the second world war.
While the public’s attention has been focused on COVID case numbers, vaccination, and border closures, without much fanfare the Government has been rolling out a billion-dollar grant program for manufacturers.
It’s hard to attract public interest in the criticality of supply chain resilience and capacity for manufacturing businesses to scale-up, translate ideas into commercial successes, and integrate into local and international value chains. Mostly people just want to know when they can travel to see loved ones.
This, however, is the herculean task of the Coalition Government’s latest Industry Minister. The Government has done tremendous work funding meritorious projects across six national manufacturing priorities in a short timeframe. It announces new manufacturing grants almost weekly. This week ten manufacturers received money from the Morrison Government to help commercialise their great ideas, including one for developing a manufacturing facility in Australia to make portable dialysis machines.
In just 10 months, the baton has passed from Karen Andrews to Christian Porter to Angus Taylor to explain to the Australian public why it is more important than ever to invest taxpayers’ dollars to make sure Australia can keep making stuff.