The end of manufacturing in Australia for Holden has highlighted the need for smarter industry policy, according to an expert on the manufacturing sector.
Roy Green – the Dean of Business at UTS and previously a member of numerous government advisory bodies such as the Prime Minister’s Taskforce on Manufacturing for the former government – has said that there has not been a significant re-thinking of industry policy since the Button Plan in the 1980s.
Green said there were numerous successful SMEs in Australia, though more needed to be done to encourage “smart specialisation” strategies, which had been adopted by some European countries.
"Our small and medium-sized manufacturers have not been sufficiently tuned in to international developments,” he told the ABC’s PM program yesterday.
"We have a couple of thousand of such companies in Australia, not just in autos, but in a wide range of technologies, who are the best in the world at what they do,” he said.
"But we don't have enough of them. And what we need now from the Government is a statement about how industry policy will be repositioned for the 21st century to build that capability, to ensure that we have access to global supply chains, to build in fact on a policy that Ian Macfarlane himself initiated under the Howard Government: the Global Opportunities Program.”
Green, who has previously spoken of the success of Australian“micro-multinationals” and the need to offer globally-oriented, niche products, said that the loss of Toyota – following Holden’s decision to wind down manufacturing by the end of 2017 – was not assured, but there was a need to ensure a competitive supply chain.
"[Toyota has] an international presence with Australian manufacturing. We export and they have a very flexible operation here," he noted.
"There are many things they would like to do with that operation to make it even more competitive and we need to look at those.
"But the key thing here is, not simply to focus on the assembly end of manufacturing, which doesn't capture all that much value, but to focus on the design, innovation and specialised manufacturing end."