Answer to Australia's trade deficit

Tuesday, 15 March, 2005

Chief executive of the Australian Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (AEEMA), Angus M Robinson, has called for a major rethink of Australia's industrial development.

In a recent edition of the association's newsletter, E-Bulletin, Robinson pointed out that business media had been focusing recently on Australia's current trade deficit problems. There had been much comment on the identified bottleneck of congested infrastructure that was inhibiting Australia's ability to increase exports from the resources sector, particularly coal and iron ore.

But there had been no critical analysis of the logistics challenge facing Australia if this crisis was to be addressed.

"The suggestion that the Australian taxpayer should commit to paying for a massive increase in infrastructure capacity to cater for a resources boom can not be justified and must be challenged, Robinson said.

"The current strategy is unsustainable. It is about time that we review other options to generate future revenue for Australia, particularly as Australia continues to draw in increasing volumes of high-value ICT imports - including consumer electronics from both the developed and developing world (particularly China)."

Robinson suggested that Australia's high-technology industry base comprised many diverse SMEs employing skilled and innovative engineers and technicians. He said that it was linked to a high-quality public R&D base offering a combined quality knowledge base which, if encouraged and assisted to strategically attack global niche market opportunities, would be available to put the wind back in Australia's sails.

Robinson observed that a further investment in this skills and capability-based infrastructure was sustainable, sensible and affordable. This should be considered well ahead of any misguided thinking in investing in more railway lines, ports etc to service an expanded bulk, low-value product, supply-chain-driven economy.

"The tipping point is here and now, Robinson said. Australia must invest in the high road approach to continue to enjoy an increasing standard of living. So far, we have done well on the back of the resources sector and we can continue to capitalise on the substantial skills base that services these industries. But we must now establish a new layer of economic activity which will sustainably create more wealth," he added.

Robinson, AEEMA president Christopher Janssen, and Bruce Thompson, chairman of the Electronics Industry Action Agenda, recently discussed plans for further industry and government support for Australia's high-technology electronics industry with the Hon Ian Macfarlane MP, Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources.

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