Opinion: Manufacturing hopes at mercy of political will

Billy Kerr, The CrowSouth Western Times

The call by the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union for a manufacturing industry to be set up in Bunbury has a lot of merit but do our political leaders at a local, State and federal level have the courage to try and make this happen?

Governments of all persuasions have long presided over the demise of major manufacturing in this country, preferring to send our jobs overseas.

In recent times, however, the realisation has kicked in that we can and should have a manufacturing industry that can meet domestic needs and also be competitive on the international stage.

The catalyst for the union’s call is that there are a number of big projects in the planning stage that will require plenty of engineering input.

We have a decided advantage down here in that we have little in the way of manufacturing and as such we are in a position where we can design and build manufacturing industries from the ground up that reflect modern manufacturing process.

We are talking about engineering plants that are highly automated, technology-driven and not necessarily as labour intensive as in the past.

From little things big things grow and there is no reason why we cannot get the gig to manufacture the new rail cars for the Metronet project and why we cannot manufacture the new rail cars that will modernise the Australind link.

Allied to all of this is the huge potential to then supply rail wagons to the iron ore industry.

Just look at the example Austal has set through its shipbuilding initiatives.

Started off small, it went hi-tech using new techniques and new products and now they are building some of the most advanced naval attack ships in the world.

Their model is a good one and we can tag onto by becoming a versatile manufacturing hub that has the capacity to morph itself quickly into whatever the market demands.

We have got the Kemerton site which has access to the necessities for a new technology-driven manufacturing industry and now all we need is the political will to make it happen.

We are talking about potential contracts worth billions of dollars and while we will need to overcome the traditional obstacles of high energy and high labour costs, a major union is backing this project which means we could be half way to overcoming these impediments.

This is too good an opportunity to miss and the movers and shakers in this place need to pursue this initiative with urgency and vigour.

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