Regional manufacturing should be central to Australia’s sovereign future, says Nationals Senate Leader and Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie.
Today the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals together with the HunterNet Co-operative hosted Senator McKenzie and Nationals Senator for New South Wales Perin Davey on day one a two-day tour of their members throughout the Hunter Valley region.
The focus of the tour is to understand the opportunities and challenges facing manufacturing businesses in regional areas, with a focus on COVID-19 recovery.
“The manufacturing industry will play a strong role in helping Australia’s economy to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly manufacturers in the regions that are co-located with raw materials and inputs across our food and fibre, defence, and critical minerals sectors,” Senator McKenzie said.
“The need to build our sovereignty has been highlighted by the pandemic and as an export focussed nation, there are endless opportunities to create jobs in advanced manufacturing and to continue Australia’s competitive advantage not only in these sectors, but also others such as healthcare and essential products.”
For resurgence in manufacturing to occur, Senator McKenzie has sought to understand ways The Nationals in government can assist through policy settings that support regional manufacturers.
“Regional manufacturing employs 274,300 people and accounts for almost 32 per cent of Australia’s total manufacturing,” Senator McKenzie said.
“This shows that manufacturers in the regions are well-placed to grow their businesses and help Australia rebuild its manufacturing capability, which has declined over the past 30 years due to challenges such as lower tariffs and low-cost products from emerging economies.
“Our regional manufacturers are export focussed and already, many of them have strong relationships with customers overseas which have remained strong throughout the pandemic and today I have learnt that many of the businesses I’ve visited have in fact had increased trade during COVID-19.”
Senator Davey said the fact-finding tour highlighted regional Australia’s untapped potential to drive Australia’s post COVID-19 economic recovery.
“The Hunter region is already an example of a strong manufacturing region with a co-operative presence and we need to support them and encourage other regions to follow their example” Senator Davey said.
The visit to the Newcastle region follows site visits last week to co-operatives in Casino and Lismore in northern New South Wales including Norco, the Northern Meat Co-operative and Marquis Macadamias that was also hosted by the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals.
The northern New South Wales visit also saw Senator McKenzie co-host a virtual roundtable of food and beverage manufacturers from right across Australia.
“What is apparent from my meetings is regionally-based manufacturers have a positive can-do attitude and an abundance of country ingenuity, this has been evident during this pandemic,” Senator McKenzie said.
“I have every confidence they will lead the way as Australia re-emerges as a world-leading new manufacturer.”
Senator McKenzie will use information gathered during the site visits and roundtables to inform a regional manufacturing policy.