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Analysis and Comment (103)

Australian companies still face highly competitive and complex markets in China despite the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Lukas Coch/AAP

Beyond the FTA: China still tough for Aussie companies to crack

During the APEC meeting in Beijing, President Xi Jinping announced China will spend US$10 trillion on imports over the next five years and US$1.25 trillion in foreign investment over the next ten years…
A new culture is required for Australian manufacturing to be reinvented. Shutterstock

Entrepreneurs can help bring new thinking to manufacturing

With major employers heading offshore and employment numbers decimated, what will emerge from the ashes of Australia’s manufacturing industry? And what role should manufacturing play in the federal government’s…
Australian manufacturing outliers demonstrate the need to invest in technology and management. www.shutterstock.com

Australian industry can learn from its manufacturing ‘outliers’

Australia’s manufacturing industry is in decline. Yet some businesses are managing to buck the trend. The question is what do these “outliers” do differently from their competitors? And what does each…
A set of simple management practices can help manufacturing companies outperform. WorldSkills/Flickr

The secret to unlocking productivity in manufacturing

With major employers heading offshore and employment numbers decimated, what will emerge from the ashes of Australia’s manufacturing industry? And what role should manufacturing play in the federal government’s…
The Abbott government is preparing to lay out its plan to support Australian industries to compete globally. Ben Macmahon/AAP

A thinking country’s guide to competing on the global stage

With major employers heading offshore and employment numbers decimated, what will emerge from the ashes of Australia’s manufacturing industry? And what role should manufacturing play in the federal government’s…
The automotive industry may have moved on, but Australian manufacturing continues to represent a core source of economic prosperity for Australia. Julian Smith/AAP

Why the Australian economy still needs manufacturing

With major employers heading offshore and employment numbers decimated, what will emerge from the ashes of Australia’s manufacturing industry? And what role should manufacturing play in the federal government’s…
Australia leads the world in water accounting standards, but this is at risk. Flickr/Chris Morin

Failing to account for water lets business down

As part of its budget cuts, the federal government plans to disband the Water Accounting Standards Board, which looks after water accounting. But is this leaving business high and dry? Water accounting…
Australia has improved its global innovation ranking - but future budget could put this progress at risk. Image sourced from www.shutterstock.com

Australia ranks on innovation – but indolence could cost us

This year’s news on Australia’s global innovation ranking could be a lot worse, and probably will be in the future if the Federal Government gets its way with proposed budget cuts to our already inadequate…
Canada faces similar pressures on its car industry, but its approach has been opposite to that of Australia. AAP/Paul Osborne

Canada and Australia: a tale of two car industries

As Australian prime minister Tony Abbott arrives in Canada to talk investment and trade, both countries are facing similar challenges to their respective manufacturing bases, particularly in the automotive…
In China, there has been a shift away from traditional textile and clothing to computers and communications. AAP/EPA/SHEPHERD ZHOU CHINA OUT

As India and China transform, Australian manufacturers must follow

As Australia laments the decline of its manufacturing sector, China is actively taking steps to accelerate its move up the value chain. Historically a low-cost operating environment, China was once an…
Tasmania’s alkaloid poppy industry was an Australian innovation success story - until it moved overseas. Glenn Schultes/Flickr

In Conversation: Australia needs tax breaks for innovation

Australian innovation has stagnated in the past 50 years, and could be reinvigorated by focusing on key areas, according to Donald Hector, President of the Royal Society of New South Wales in an interview…
Business has agitated for change, but is now wary of the negative impact of a tough budget.

The state of Australia: business

In the lead up to the budget, the story of crisis has been hammered home, but there’s more to a country than its structural deficit. So how is Australia doing overall? In this special series, ten writers…
Twelve months after the devastating factory collapse in Bangladesh, safety regulations are still not up to scratch. EPA/Abir Abdullah

One year on from Rana Plaza collapse, work still to be done

One year ago on the 24th of April 2013, the horrific Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh claimed at least 1,129 lives and galvanised industry and government into action. Worldwide condemnation for lax safety…
Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill mine has secured funding from multiple sources, including Export-Import banks in the US, Japan and Korea. Hancock Prospecting/AAP

Why the US Export-Import Bank backed Rinehart’s Roy Hill

When Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill mine proposal secured the multi-billion dollar financing deal needed to proceed last week, questions were asked about the US$694.4 million coming from the US Export-Import…
A mini power plant in a North Sydney basement. Trigeneration plants like these generate electricity, heating and cooling far more efficiently than with mains power. AAP/Short Communications, Girrit Fokkema

How to save business billions, without cutting renewable jobs

The debate about the future of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) has largely focused on the issue of immediate costs to business. But if we’re thinking about Australia’s long-term economic interests…
South Korea has surpassed Australia on many economic measures. KOREA.NET/Flickr

Can Australia win from FTAs in the Asian Century?

Australia and South Korea are entering a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), but before you think “advanced Western country gains access to a large Asian market”, think again. Economic powers have shifted seismically…
Prefab housing is an industry that shares many assembly methods with car manufacturing. Code_martial/Flickr

Building a housing industry from the relics of a car industry

Unless you have been living under a rock, you couldn’t help but hear the dying wail of manufacturing here in Australia. Car manufacturing and food manufacturing being the most recent victims. There’s no…
Prime Minister Tony Abbott is betting the rapid demise of Australia’s automotive sector can be contained politically. Alan Porritt/AAP

Managed decline to rapid demise: Abbott’s car industry gamble

For the past 30 years, Australian automotive industry policies can be characterised as managed decline. Beginning in the 1980s with the Button Plan, the aim of policy was to consolidate the industry and…
Global shift: one-in-three vehicles produced by Toyota are manufactured in Asia. AAP

Toyota’s exit was inevitable: now for real test of government

Toyota Australia President and CEO, Max Yasuda, has described the car maker’s decision to leave Australia as one of the saddest days in its history worldwide. I do not doubt the emotion expressed by Mr…
Graphene is an exciting and lucrative new industry – so why isn’t the Australian government funding local commercial development? Hinkle Group

Graphene can pave the way for Australian manufacturing

Australian industries have reached a turning point. With old industries on the way out, the Australian manufacturing sector’s biggest challenge is to move from a low-cost mass production model to one that…
Cold steel: George Osborne visits JCB’s factory in Staffordshire. Rui Vieira/PA

Finance wages soar while manufacturing flatlines

George Osborne promised Britain a “march of the makers” – but as yet, there is little sign that a resurgence of manufacturing is helping the economy to rebalance. It would be naïve to assume that manufacturing…
Debt; dollar; deficit - the mantra for this year, amid a turbulent political period. AAP

2013, the year that was: Business and Economy

Debt. Dollar. Deficits. Three little words so close to the hearts of our contributors in a year dominated by a critical federal election, a waning mining boom and continuing international turbulence. The…
Toyota is the ‘last man standing’ in Australian car manufacturing, but it needs to shift from an ‘us and them’ approach to industrial relations. Alan Porritt/AAP

Toyota needs a new approach to avoid the road to nowhere

The Productivity Commission will today release the preliminary report of its inquiry into Australian automotive manufacturing industries, ensuring the future of car manufacturing in Australia continues…
Motoring executives and politicians have met to discuss assistance for the manufacturing sector, but they shouldn’t overlook the need for local leaders. Joe Castro/AAP

After Holden: think national, act local

The Abbott government has made its first move to assist the regions affected by Holden’s planned closure. A high-profile taskforce, to be led by prime minister Tony Abbott and include two other federal…
Toyota has a history of operational excellence in Australia. Joe Castro/AAP

Last ‘man’ standing: what now for Toyota in Australia?

Now that Ford and Holden have announced the 2017 closure of their Australian manufacturing and assembly operations, what are the prospects for the industry and its key remaining participant, Toyota? Unlike…
Those scrutinising government support of the car industry have changed their views over time. judepics/Flickr

Measuring the fallout of Holden’s ‘perfect storm’

For many decades, Australians have regarded a local car industry as a demonstration of our domestic capability. Sometimes, we have paid dearly for our enthusiasm. In the late 1970s, import quotas limited…
The withdrawal of General Motors in Australia follows the step back of government support for GMH in the US. Hugo90/Flickr

Moving on: Holden closure shows we need a new growth agenda

General Motors has confirmed it will cease manufacturing in Australia from 2017, citing a “perfect storm of negative influences”. GM chairman Dan Akerson said these forces include “the sustained strength…
Chairman and Managing Director of GM Holden, Mike Devereux, has confirmed the company will cease making cars here by 2017. Julian Smith/AAP

Holden to cease making cars in Australia by 2017: experts react

General Motors Holden has confirmed speculation it will withdraw from car production in Australia by the end of 2017. The announcement by Holden comes after days of sustained public speculation and calls…
Holden may shut up shop in Australia, and the government is already considering the fallout. Lukas Coch/AAP

Adding up the flow-on effects of a Holden closure

The idea of further government support for the ailing automotive industry (AKA the Holden problem) generates considerable political and economic debate. For economists and business academics, it comes…
Made in the UK: nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard and Type 45 frigate HMS Dragon. MOD/Tam McDonald

Costly to keep afloat: Britain’s waning warship industry

The controversy over the BAE Systems decision on warship building has been dominated by myth, emotion and pleading. Arguments are raging about English versus Scottish jobs, about shipbuilding as a key…
Six-legged hexapod robots can navigate rugged terrain and access places human workers cannot. CSIRO

Beyond R2-D2: Australian manufacturing’s robotics wish-list

In 1977, George Lucas’ Star Wars introduced us to R2-D2, an intelligent bot that embodied modern assistive robotics: he could anticipate needs and perform a number of tasks with minimal instruction. Almost…
3D printing holds many advantages for the manufacturing industry, including the ability to print moving parts. John Biehler

Can 3D printing rebuild manufacturing in Australia?

It’s not easy being a small business in the current manufacturing environment. The face of manufacturing is changing, and businesses are eager for technological advances that could give them a competitive…
Cheap construction of intricate designs. fdecomite

3D printing market is booming as the buzz catches on

3D printing stocks jumped early this week following analyst Kenneth Wong’s assertion that the market could triple in the next five years. But why the sudden attention? The possible economic impact of 3D…
If cars aren’t the way to go in manufacturing, maybe we should look to green technology. Flickr/Michael Caven

Can Kevin Rudd revive the green manufacturing dream?

Australia’s ailing car manufacturing industry will receive a A$200m funding boost. And all cars in Commonwealth fleets will have to be Australian-made. The policy was announced today by Kim Carr, Minister…
The Australian car manufacturing industry is in trouble – but does the government provide less support than other countries?

FactCheck: do other countries subsidise their car industry more than we do?

“By international standards our support [of the automotive industry] is modest, so we have to work hard to attract the new investment.” – Industry minister Senator Kim Carr, Lateline, 22 July. The idea…
The Rudd government’s changes to fringe benefit tax concessions on cars is good environmental policy, but bad news for the manufacturing sector. AAP

Manufacturing threatened by Rudd’s changes to car tax deductions

The decision to terminate the statutory formula method under the fringe benefits tax regime will have significant ramifications on the car industry, the local car manufacturing industry and employment…
The reasons for compensating emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries have vanished; so should the compensation. Dave Clarke

Labor keeps ETS compensation for big power users - why?

With the Rudd government announcing a faster conversion to a market-driven carbon price, it should be time to review the assistance provided to emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries such as raw…
Australia enjoys a privileged relationship with most economies in the Asian region because of the integrated global value chain. Image sourced from www.shutterstock.com

Increasing Australia’s edge through Asian value chains

Australia is facing increasingly stiff competition from developed economies all vying for a share of the growth pie in the East and South Asian region, where Australia has integrated its value chain activities…
Should Australia go beyond exporting uranium “yellowcake” and consider fabricating nuclear fuel rods? Flickr/NNSA News

Should Australia’s manufacturing future be nuclear?

It is not the first time in Australia’s economic history that a prevalent sector reaches its peak and gives way to a rapidly developing new one. However, while the mining and education sectors have apparently…
The trend of “mass customisation” will mean Australian factories will be very different places in the future. AAP

Will mass customisation change Australia’s manufacturing future?

Manufacturers across the world rely on economies from the scale of production to drive down unit cost. This “mass production” approach, focused on efficiency and uniformity of product, is feasible when…
Ford’s departure from Victorian communities will hurt - but it does not have to be devastating. AAP

Ford’s departure is bad news, but not the end of the world

There will be a lot of debate as to why Ford now finds itself in the situation it is in. Ford CEO, Robert Graziano, cited economies of scale as the primary factor that made continuing to produce cars in…
Ford’s impending shutdown of its car-making plants in Australia does not bode well for an already ailing manufacturing sector. AAP

Ford’s exit spells the end of the road for manufacturing

“You’ll never see Japanese cars in an RSL car park.” That was Bill Bourke, Ford Australia’s sales supremo of the ’60s. Bourke was wrong. Dead wrong. In 2016, Ford will cease manufacturing in Australia…
Nearly half of Australian adults are functionally illiterate, with manufacturing workers having some of the country’s lowest literacy levels, a significant issue as the industry continues to shed jobs. AAP Image/Julian Smith

The future for Ford workers: literacy will be key

Yesterday’s announcement that Ford will close its manufacturing operations in Geelong and Broadmeadows by 2016 at the cost of 1,200 jobs raises questions of what the workers' future employment options…
Ford Australia has announced it will pull its car production out of Australia by 2016, with the loss of 1200 manufacturing jobs.

Ford to pull out of car production in Australia: expert reaction

The future of Australia’s auto manufacturing industry is under a heavy cloud after Ford’s announcement that it would cease its manufacturing operations in Australia by 2016. Ford Australia president Bob…
Recent redundancies at Holden have sparked debate over the need for a revised “industry policy”: but is this really the way forward? AAP/Andrew Brownbill

Industry policy must not second guess markets

The recent GM-Holden redundancies have provoked much comment, in many cases appealing for both state and federal governments to find solutions. But can government solve this dilemma, or is it a (big) part…
Labor’s jobs package provides its future direction for industry for the first time; but can it deliver, and more importantly, will it survive political opposition? AAP

Planning for a blue-collar Australia: will Labor’s job package deliver?

Labor has finally delivered the detail of its much-awaited vision for shaping Australian industry beyond the mining boom. But will it deliver? In a two part series, UWA Professor Tim Mazzarol examines…
Obama has unveilled two key trade treaties designed to reaffirm America’s place as the world’s leading nation - but many aspects of the treaties run counter to its social development stances.

The two treaties: Obama, trade, and the State of the Union

US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union plan to boost American exports and grow American jobs centres around two key regional trade agreements: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trans-Atlantic…
Prepare for more handouts: the taxpayer is the meat in the sandwich between politicians and manuocrats - those who believe the source of all our wealth is manufacturing. AAP

2013: The battle between the taxpayers and the manuocrats

The battleground between business, taxpayers and government for 2013 is taking shape. It is manufacturing and jobs. On Wednesday, building materials company Boral announced at least 700 job cuts in Australia…
We agree Australia’s productivity has to improve: plotting the trajectory from the macro to the micro will be big future themes of debate in the coming year. AAP

The productivity conundrum: current thinking and future trends

Amid the emerging decline in Australia’s terms of trade and drop in commodity prices, there is general consensus among most commentators that improving Australia’s productivity is critical. Looking back…
Instead of relying on unconditional government largess, car companies in Australia should be asked to provide guarantees. AAP

Moving the car industry debate beyond a squabble over subsidies

A famous quote from Albert Einstein states that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity. Yet this is exactly what has occurred in the car industry which has…
Trade minister Craig Emerson met with India’s minister for Commerce and Industry Dr Anand Sharma at free trade talks earlier this year - but don’t expect trading links to accelerate in the next decade.

Increasing our trade relationship with India will not be so simple

Ongoing efforts on the part of the Australian government to deepen ties with India are well known. The recent Asian Century White Paper frequently couples China and India in its analyses, which suggests…
Three recent reports into productivity highlight differing issues but agree that targeting industrial reform is not the key to lifting outputs. Image sourced from www.shutterstock.com

Changing work practices alone will not boost productivity

The Australian Government’s recently released white paper on Australia in the Asian Century identified productivity as one of five key areas for action, at a time when we are engaged in a major national…
The banks have pulled the plug on loss-making company Gunns after it announced a $904 million loss. Image from www.shutterstock.com

Timber giant Gunns felled by the ‘perfect storm’

Forestry company Gunns has been entered into voluntary administration after posting a $904 million loss today. Tough economic conditions, including a high Australian dollar and falling woodchip prices…
The closure of BlueScope’s no 6 Blast Furnace at Port Kembla was an acknowledgement that Australia simply cannot compete with our cheaper Asian rivals.

Glimmers of hope in the steel industry’s darkest hour

The $1 billion dollar annual loss announced by BlueScope Steel confirmed what is common knowledge: the Australian steel industry is in crisis and fighting for survival. The latest statistics show that…
The Manufacturing Taskforce has delivered 41 recommendations across all levels of of the economy: but the sheer breadth may prove hardest to implement. AAP

Some big ideas for manufacturing, but will they happen?

The recently released Report of the Non-Government Members of the Prime Minister’s Manufacturing Task Force provides a comprehensive and well-considered blueprint for the future of Australia’s manufacturing…
Manufacturing has a future in Australia - but only if it can reposition itself up the global value chain.

The blueprint for a smarter Australia starts with manufacturing

Can anything new be said about the future of manufacturing in Australia? Yesterday’s report, Smarter Manufacturing for a Smarter Australia submitted yesterday to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, is a detailed…
Australia’s unique manufacturing DNA - comprised of tens of thousands of small-to-medium enterprises - means that we must forge our own path to innovation. DNA Art Online

Finding a unique path for Australia’s manufacturing future

As the manufacturing landscape shifts in response to new economic and social pressures, Australia is looking for an answer to the question: What does the future look like for Australian manufacturing…
Associated with sexy, outdoor aesthetic, Australia’s surfboard culture defines a way of life. But it is in danger of disappearing? Flickr/Desobry23

Once a cultural icon, is Australia’s surfboard industry destined to disappear?

Last October surfboard company BASE abruptly closed its factory on the Gold Coast, with the direct loss of 30 jobs. Since then, nearby D’Arcy Surfboards has announced it is shedding workers and downsizing…
The future health of Australian manufacturing depends on bridging the gap between research organisations and business. AAP

Closing the innovation gap is the key to the survival of manufacturing

As we are only too aware, manufacturing in Australia is currently under a great deal of pressure, operating in a relatively high cost environment, facing significant international competition and taking…
Times have changed; the car industry needs to catch up. aussiefordadverts/Flickr

Australian car industry needs lower emissions, not handouts

The Australian Government has been bailing out automotive manufacturers since 1985. Both that year’s Button Plan and the 2008 Bracks Report recommended restructure and additional funding. But unless the…
The automotive industry is bearing the brunt of a strong Australian dollar. AAP

Death by the dollar? How innovation can save manufacturing

Toyota’s announcement yesterday that it will shed 350 jobs at its plant in Altona has been blamed on the strength of the Australian dollar, which some commentators say is having a significant impact on…
Would Australia’s automotive industry survive without government assistance?

Australia’s handout-addicted car industry needs some tough love

The Federal Government will contribute millions of dollars to Australian car manufacturers Holden and Ford in an effort to keep Australia’s automotive sector afloat. The government will add $34 million…
Australia needs to have a serious and healthy debate on what the “Australian made” brand represents. iStockphoto/Hamza Bendemra

First Qantas, now the Commodore: are we losing what makes Australia great?

Reports suggesting Holden is considering phasing out major parts of the manufacturing chain for the iconic Commodore points to a worrying trend of off-shoring the very skills manufacturing needs in order…
The future of Australia’s manufacturing sector will be the focus of today’s Jobs Summit. AAP

Jobs Summit: making a future for manufacturing

Hot on the heels of the Tax Forum in Canberra is today’s Jobs Summit, which is expected to concentrate on the pressing issues facing manufacturing. Dean of UTS Business School Professor Roy Green, who…
Apple’s has concentrated on two aspects of the value chain - design and service - to take command of its manufacturing chain. AAP

Global manufacturing has changed and we have to change with it

Despite the rhetoric that Australian manufacturing is in crisis, is it really time to write it off? In this Q&A, Professor Sir Mike Gregory, Head of the Manufacturing and Management Division at the…
Record terms of trade have masked dropping productivity growth - until now. AAP

Australia’s productivity: what can be done?

What is to be done about Australia’s deteriorating productivity performance? It’s by no means inconceivable that the answer to this question could be “nothing”. Historical precedent strongly suggests Australians…
Don Argus’s focus on industrial relations overlooks the real issues behind slowing productivity growth. AAP

Don Argus blames IR for productivity slump - but are other factors at work?

Former BHP Billiton Chairman Don Argus has blamed inflexible industrial relations laws for Australia’s lagging productivity, describing the Gillard Government’s economic reform agenda as “lazy”. Argus…
Calls by senior union figures Paul Howes and Dave Oliver for an inquiry into manufacturing have fallen on deaf ears. AAP

Does manufacturing have a future in Australia?

Does manufacturing have a future in Australia? This question has now been brought sharply into focus, as industry leaders and unions pressure the Federal Government to consider new measures to safeguard…
Out of the box: an export tax could be combined with the Federal Government proposed resources tax. AAP

A resources export tax could help save manufacturing

Australia’s lagging manufacturing sector faced thorough scrutiny last week, amid calls for more government support for local industries following BlueScope Steel’s $1 billion loss and its decision to sack…
Are Ministers Kim Carr and Martin Ferguson are wasting their time calling for industry to buy Australian? AAP

Why businesses aren’t buying it when it comes Australian made

The Federal Government’s new Buy Australian campaign comes amid growing concern that further layoffs will follow the loss of 1000 BlueScope jobs and that the mining boom is crushing manufacturing. But…
BlueScope has fallen victim to a changing export market, high Australian dollar and gradual structural shift to free trade policies. AAP

‘Once upon a time, when Australia had a steel industry …’

Once upon a time, 30 years ago, when we still thought the steel industry was an endless and bottomless well for economic growth and employment, many of us also believed in industry policy, corporate responsibility…
Australia needs to further embrace advanced manufacturing. aap

Why Australia should take the manufacturing high road

Sometimes there’s nothing like timing to really hammer a point home. The day after manufacturing expert Dan Swinney, Chief executive of the Chicago Manufacturing Renaissance Council, spoke in Victorian…
Manufacturers may be forced to accept profit margins will continue to narrow.

Explainer: What a strong Australian dollar actually means

The Australian dollar has been striking new post-float highs against the US dollar in recent weeks, and according to a number of prominent market economists could reach US$1.10 before the end of this year…

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