Tony Abbott has gone out of his way to hurt Australian manufacturing. From Toyota to Alcoa, and SPC to Ford, he has cut off industry assistance that long had bipartisan support, and underpinned decent jobs.
Such assistance helped Australian manufacturers deal with this unfair playing field:
- A high Australian dollar: In 2009 the Australian dollar was worth US $.060, but thanks to the mining boom, reached over US $1.10 last year. This means that imported products are much cheaper than Australian-made ones. Australia has no policy to regulate its currency unlike countries such as the US, Japan, China or Brazil.
- Unfair subsidies and dumping: Manufacturing industries overseas, particularly in China, are heavily and, often, unfairly subsidised. In order to gain market share or get rid of excess stock they sell their products in Australia for less than it costs to make them. This is called ‘dumping’. Australia’s anti-dumping system was one of the weakest in the world until governments strengthened it because of campaigning by the CFMEU and other manufacturing unions, but more improvements are needed.
- Illegal logging: When the wood products come from illegally logged forests overseas it not only devastates the local environment and communities, but also unfairly undercuts the Australian industry which uses materials sourced from legally and sustainably managed forests. To make matters worse foreign companies sometimes use child or forced labour to reduce costs further.
- Free Trade Agreements: remove tariff protection enjoyed by Australian industry and can prohibit proper policies to provide local industry with a level playing field. Not having clauses to ensure that trade is fair, as well as free, has destroyed jobs in manufacturing.
Australia is negotiating an agreement with China, our largest trading partner. This will be another nail in the coffin for Australian manufacturing if there are no protections in the agreement against unfair trade practices from Chinese competitors such as dumping, and breaching safety, quality, labour and environmental standards.
- Public Procurement: sometimes Australia producers get unfairly locked out of contracts despite often being cheaper and better performing than imported products. That’s why the previous government put in place rules to ensure that local industry had full, fair and reasonable access and participation in important domestic markets. But the Abbott Government has already abolished most of them.
We will campaign to ensure:
- The government implements its election commitment to strengthen anti-dumping and countervailing laws and ensure imported wood products, especially those used on Australian construction projects like formply, meet Australian Standards.
- The Illegal Logging Prohibition Legislation is not repealed and the government takes a hard line against importers of illegally logged timber and manufactured products.
- Australian industry is shielded from the effects of a high Australian dollar.
- Australian industry has full, fair and reasonable access to, and participation in, important domestic markets.
- Public procurement supports local jobs and training outcomes.