Australians have “little appetite” to fund support to the manufacturing industry, as more than two-thirds believe the money is wasted on a sector in decline that can no longer compete globally.
A Wallis Consultancy Group report commissioned by the former federal government and leaked to The Australian (the newspaper has put up the full report online) analyses the responses of a 1503-person survey and 10 focus groups.
The report found the vast majority (90%) of Australians believe manufacturing is an important part of the Australian economy. Most actually overstate its contribution to Australia’s GDP and to employment.
And most Australians (89%) agreed or strongly agreed that Australia produces high-quality products.
However, in the focus groups, few people said they actively sought out Australian-made products. Younger participants especially felt such buying decisions made little sense in a globalised, multicultural world.
And half (52%) of Australians hold a pessimistic view of the global competitiveness of manufacturing in Australia, with a larger majority (64%) believing manufacturing will decline in importance to the Australian economy in the future.
The survey part of the report does not cover government support for manufacturing. But it was an issue raised in the focus groups.
While some participants said preserving things like car manufacturing in Australia was important because of the related component industries, this view was not widely shared, the report states.
Instead, most participants were concerned the government was wasting its money propping up inefficient companies.
In the words of one participant: “I don’t think they should’ve put all those billions of dollars [into keeping] Ford and Holden going. Our future is something that’s high tech…like medical equipment or an ear implant.”