I want to speak today about Australian manufacturing in the 21st century and in particular in my electorate of Holt. My federal electorate of Holt is located in the middle of south-eastern Melbourne’s manufacturing belt. The electorate has, according to the 2011 census, the nation’s highest proportion of the workforce employed in manufacturing at 19.3 per cent. It has been that way for some period of time—in fact, when I came into parliament it was 33 per cent. I have an electorate which in many ways is at the cutting edge of technology and innovation in manufacturing. It is vital that we support and create 21st century manufacturing hubs across Australia in locations like south-eastern Melbourne, and I will say why in a second.
South-eastern Melbourne is one of Australia’s most dynamic manufacturing regions. I know the member for Lalor has a lot of manufacturing in her electorate, but south-eastern Melbourne is known as the golden river of manufacturing. Hundreds of companies provide tens of thousands of skilled jobs and investment in critical research and development. South-east Melbourne generates 44 per cent of Victoria’s manufactured product. Industry provides 17 per cent of south-east Melbourne’s 549,000 jobs. According to local manufacturing group SEMMA, more than 300 exporters are based in the region with companies such as Jayco, Coolon LED Lighting, Bombardier, Spa Industries and Icon Plastics demonstrating the strong international links that have been forged and reflecting the international competitiveness of our local manufacturers.
South-eastern Melbourne is a vital manufacturing hub in Australia. I think in many ways it is symbolic of our need to take action to put Australia at the forefront of 21st century manufacturing, because we have the people. At present a loosely connected manufacturing hub exists in the south-east of Melbourne however more work, in my view, needs to be done to create a fully fledged manufacturing hub in Australia in the south-east of Melbourne. A fully fledged manufacturing hub involves bringing together companies and universities to develop cutting edge technology, train workers to use that technology, and then make sure that the research is translated into real-world products made by Australian workers. It is interesting to note that Germany has 60 manufacturing hubs. The United States is creating four of these hubs. Australia, in my view, needs at least one, and my contention is, quite clearly, that it should be in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I would say that, wouldn’t I?
Australia is uniquely positioned to benefit from the growing economy and trade in the Asian region. According to 2011 modelling by the Asian Development Bank, Asia’s GDP will increase from, currently, 17 trillion in 2010 to 174 trillion in 2050. It will then be half of the global GDP. Australia cannot afford to just watch countries like Germany, the United States, Japan and South Korea be the manufacturing leaders in the 21st century. We have the people, the knowledge and the expertise to join them. It is possible for us to be a manufacturing leader, but it will not happen unless we all fully embrace the new economy of the 21st century.
The new economy of the 21st century, for an industrialised country like Australia, involves envisaging what the world will be and then building and asking the question: how does Australia build on the Industrial Revolution and the digital revolution to create manufacturing products for the 21st century. I do not contend that Australia does not make things. One of the things that really makes me angry when I hear that is when I see so many Australian companies right at the forefront of cutting edge manufacturing technology and they are not recognised in the media or in the community, and they should be. It is likely that to build the world of tomorrow Australia will need to manufacture new 3-D printing products, biotechnology products, advanced metal products, renewable energy products, electric car products, and space and aeronautical products in the coming years. To succeed, as I said, we need to build new manufacturing hubs.
Obviously companies like Ford, Holden and Toyota have decided to wind up their operations in Australia, but that should not automatically mean that we do not have, or should not have, an automotive industry. One view that I would like to put to this chamber is that Australia should be inviting new, innovating companies, like Tesla Motors, to build electric cars in Australia. The Europeans and the Americans look at Australia as being a jumping board into Asia. My view would be that we should embrace companies like Tesla and SpaceX, and innovators like Elon Musk, who is the CEO of Tesla, and encourage them to come to this country. I do believe that we can make great products for the 21st century, and we need to give companies the incentive in order to do that, particularly in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.