April 6th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Stem cell research: the way forward

The facts behind the 'people overboard' affair

Opinion: The banks' power over small business

STRAWS: Selective amnesia / Slow boat to China / Tower of Babel

TRADE: Sugar price collapse threatens future of canegrowers

MEDIA: Debating points

New Zealand faces winter of discontent

Manufacturing: an endangered species (letter)

Afghan specialities (letter)

The great water debate: facts and myths

COMMENT: Healthy disinterest no bad thing

UNITED STATES: Behind Washington's self-serving free trade rhetoric

Switzerland, Taiwan seek UN membership

HISTORY: Demons and Democrats: the story of the Labor Split

Books: JOHN GORTON: He Did It His Way, by Ian Hancock

MEDIA: Stem cells: what debate?

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Manufacturing: an endangered species (letter)

by Michael A. Nelms

News Weekly, April 6, 2002


In some quarters still it is suggested that our manufacturing industries are doing well. One such source is Engineers Australia with their February 2002 magazine. However, the real situation is one of grave concern.

Our dramatically shrunken industrial base has cut manufacturing from 26 per cent of GDP in 1975 to around 11 per cent by 2000. This has more than halved manufacturing's contribution to the final value of goods and services produced within Australia annually.

As reported by Dr Peter Brain in Beyond Meltdown, the Global Battle for Sustained Growth, Australia's failure to make any headway in manufacturing productivity relative to the United States between 1970 and the late 1990s is by far the worst performance by any industrialised country throughout this period.

Australia must harness globalisation, not oppose it. However, unfortunately now we must rely upon importing what we once produced (even to the extent of necessary defence items where basic self-sufficiency may be expected). The Australian (March 19) reports army ammunition supply running at an average 55 per cent of needs.

One wonders how much of the necessary replenishment must be imported?

Unhappily, these alarming trends are likely to continue due the neo-liberal economic objectives of both political parties. At a broader level, the much heralded information revolution has not caused the principal engine of wealth production to change.

The neat concept of high technology filling the manufacturing void as the new driving force for change and wealth creation has not come to fruition in Australia. In fact it is fair to say the Australian IT sector has experienced substantially depressed conditions during the last 18 months.

Michael A. Nelms,
East Malvern, Vic

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