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Australia has changed. We think of ourselves as an innovative nation. Necessity is the mother of invention, and in the past, being on the opposite side of the world from the major industrial centres, we had to work things out for ourselves. Integration with Asian economies means we no longer have to. In fact, we are told we cannot afford to.
So will we be ‘rooned’? It is possible. There was a long term plan for the car industry, and it failed. There is no plan for the rest. Far from a turnaround in a 40 year trend, we are seeing an acceleration. Manufacturing will continue to decline, and will play a much smaller role in the economy. As a nation we will be less technically capable.
Manufacturing has few friends in high places, but to survive it needs significant government intervention to make it attractive for investment. We have done the experiment, and demonstrated that market forces will push manufacturing offshore. Plucking a number from the air, a flat tariff of 15 per cent might be enough to keep many industries which would otherwise go under afloat. That’s less than some of our ‘free trade’ partners impose on our exports.
Manufacturing provides work across the spectrum of society, and allows us to remain a technologically competent nation. And if difficult times should come, it gives us some independence from other nations’ economies.
Ockham’s Razor is a soap box for all things scientific, with short talks about research, industry and policy from people with something thoughtful to say about science.