A renewed sense of optimism was evident during the event, with attendees, including 25 of the country’s leading manufacturers, buoyed by export opportunities driven by the Chinese economy’s shift to services and its population’s increasing demand for high-quality products.
What also became clear throughout the discussion is the importance for Australian manufacturers to look outwards.
Visy director of corporate development Lynda Cheng said there were many lessons to be learnt from Australia’s international competition - including the United States, New Zealand and Singapore, particularly - with regards to productivity.
One example is Singapore’s obsession with attracting investment and staying competitive, including their willingness to constantly offer incentives, streamline regulations and reduce tax rates, she said.
Edward Staughton, managing director of Albury-based pet food manufacturer Cool Off, cited the need for Australian manufacturers to be less domestically focused and pursue export opportunities.
The regional manufacturer has been successful in pursuing growth in the United States by leveraging its Australian intellectual property and technology which is considered world’s best practice.
The family business is progressively corporatising by upgrading systems, staffing and processes whilst trying to retain its speed to market and flexibility.
Australian manufacturing has a proud history which has been tested in recent times and there’s little doubt it continues to face challenges in pursuing international expansion. These include skills shortages and high input costs such as energy.
In the future the sector’s role in the economy will be supported by a growing and global appetite for many of our country’s natural endowments such as food and minerals.
To prosper, the industry must remain focused on export opportunities, high-quality products and international competitiveness.
Phil Crouch is State Head Victoria and Tasmania, Regional Business Banking at ANZ