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Australian manufacturing not dead: Pyne

seaman welding
Royal Australian Navy Able Seaman Maritime Technician Bryan Harris of Fleet Support Unit – South East during a welding task at Fleet Base East - Garden Island in Sydney. Image via Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

While many have labelled the demise of Australia’s automotive industry as the death of manufacturing in Australia, Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne is confident investment in the defence industry will give Australia the edge it needs to compete internationally in the manufacturing sector.

While many have labelled the demise of Australia’s automotive industry as the death of manufacturing in Australia, Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne is confident investment in the defence industry will give Australia the edge it needs to compete internationally in the manufacturing sector.

Speaking at the opening of Italian defence prime Leonardo's SEA 1442 Shore Integration & Test Facility in Melbourne, the minister said skills in the Australian workforce can be used in the defence manufacturing sector and create export opportunities.

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"We will be able to attract overseas companies like Leonardo and others if we have the capability here to produce the best that the world requires in terms of product and services for defence industry," Minister Pyne said.

"We have invested in our country in skills over many decades, we have a very highly skilled workforce whether its electronic engineers, mathematicians, scientists [or] tradespeople we have a highly skilled workforce, unlike in other areas of manufacturing we can actually compete internationally."

The unique and specialised nature of defence products and platforms will keep Australia in the international game, where it has previously been pushed out by labour costs of more standard manufacturing.

"Our labour costs are not a disadvantage in these high-tech very transformed products and services in a way that they have been for creating t-shirts or some product like that where our labour costs have defeated us, but in defence industry these things are highly specialised platforms, as the Anzac frigates obviously are," explained the minister.

Minister Pyne's comments echo those of managing director of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre Jens Goennemann, who previously told Defence Connect that major defence projects like the Future Submarine Program must be used as a starting point for transforming manufacturing.

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"For Australia, we need to transform, we need to be a globally competitive country, and we need to focus on areas where we're good at, and defence can be a fantastic primer for that," Goennemann said.

"Bill Ferris calls it the moonshot opportunity. It's a moonshot opportunity if we play our cards right. It's a massive task ahead, but if that can be triggering the transformation of manufacturing, that would be a good thing, and we want to certainly tap into that."

Goennemann, the former managing director of Airbus Group Australia Pacific, said that Australia's ambitions to build up an indigenous and locally sustainable defence industry is enough to start the revolution of Australia's advanced manufacturing.

"So with defence, the ambition for example to do the most complex thing you can do in the world, building a conventionally driven submarine," he said.

"So by putting that ambition out there, this moonshot opportunity, it can be a primer for getting our manufacturing base to a higher level for the benefit of pulling that defence task off, but not stop there, but getting the entire industry, the entire country, into a mode to innovate and to transform manufacturing, and to make more complex things for defence and for non-defence. I think it's a fantastic opportunity."

Australian manufacturing not dead: Pyne
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