The Weak Manufacturing Industry in Australia

Australia, often dubbed the “Lucky Country” due to its abundant natural resources, boasts a robust mining sector. However, the manufacturing industry has faced persistent challenges, hindering its growth and competitiveness globally. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the reasons behind Australia’s struggling manufacturing industry and the role of government support, or lack thereof, in exacerbating these challenges.

High Labour Costs and Global Competition

A significant hurdle for the Australian manufacturing industry is its high labour costs, including too high minimum wages that rank among the highest in the world. This places Australian manufacturers at a disadvantage compared to countries in Asia, such as China and Vietnam, where labour costs are lower. This disparity makes it tough for Australian manufacturers to compete on price in global markets where cost is often a key consideration.

Globalisation and free trade agreements have further intensified this competition, exposing the Australian manufacturing sector to increased pressure from low-cost overseas producers. While these agreements have opened up new markets, they’ve also made it harder for local manufacturers to maintain a competitive edge.

Economic Shifts and Declining Manufacturing

The Australian economy has been undergoing a shift away from manufacturing towards services and mining for several decades. This transition has seen the services and mining industries grow significantly, while manufacturing has declined in importance.

The mining boom has attracted substantial investment and resources, often overshadowing the manufacturing sector. This heavy reliance on mining has led to a high demand for skilled labour and resources, driving up costs for other industries like manufacturing. Additionally, the dominance of the mining industry has contributed to a more narrow economic focus, making Australia more vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices.

Infrastructure, Energy Costs, and Regulatory Burdens

Australia’s vast size and relatively sparse population present infrastructure and logistics challenges that can increase transportation costs for manufacturers. High energy costs, particularly for electricity and gas, further strain the operating budgets of manufacturing companies.

Additionally, some argue that Australia’s regulatory environment is burdensome and restrictive, adding to the challenges faced by manufacturers. These factors combined can make it difficult for Australian manufacturers to compete both domestically and internationally.

Lack of Government Support

One of the criticisms directed at the Australian government is its perceived lack of support for the manufacturing industry. Despite the challenges facing the sector, there has been limited targeted government support or incentives to help Australian manufacturers innovate, modernise, and compete on the global stage.

Without adequate government support, Australian manufacturers find it challenging to invest in research and development, adopt new technologies, and upskill their workforce. This lack of support has contributed to the decline of the manufacturing sector and its heavy reliance on the mining industry.


While Australia’s manufacturing industry faces numerous challenges, opportunities for growth and revitalisation exist. Targeted government support, increased investment in research and development, and strategic partnerships with other countries can help strengthen the industry and reduce its dependence on mining.

By addressing the underlying challenges and capitalising on its strengths, Australia can work towards building a more diversified and resilient economy for the future, ensuring a balanced economic landscape that supports both mining and manufacturing industries alike.

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