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Advanced Manufacturing and Defence Industries – Medical Manufacturing

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Tags: COVID-19, Health, Hospitals

Dr WOODRUFF - The COVID pandemic has shown us very starkly how reliant we are on the import of specialised medical equipment to keep our hospitals functioning. Can you talk about any consideration the Government has given to building or enhancing any advanced manufacturing industries in Tasmania such as PPE, ventilators and other specialised medical equipment that is used on a regular basis?

Mr ROCKLIFF - Yes, more generally this year has highlighted how important local manufacturing capacity and advanced manufacturing is for Tasmania, not only as a contributor to the whole of Tasmania but I think what you are referring to in terms of our sovereign capability, in that sense. The advanced manufacturing industry has proven willing and able to assist and many in the industry stepped up and responded to supporting the national needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, the gin distilleries stepped up with hand sanitiser and all those sorts of things, and very quickly when there were all these discussions about product and enough sanitiser and soap in schools and those sorts of things in that critical time. The ingenuity was marvellous in terms of their response and it reinforced to me and I think woke us all up in terms of the importance of local manufacturing and building our capacity within Tasmania. The international shortage of PPE was a stark reminder of this, to your point, and also highlighted both the willingness and capability of Tasmanian manufacturers to assist.

Tasmania has always played a role in Australia's national capability and 2020 allowed Tasmania to clearly demonstrate some of these capabilities when it mattered most. Over 50 Tasmanian businesses registered with us to assist directly with the COVID-19 pandemic and we established a register to capture businesses able to produce and supply critical items and to connect manufacturers with those that needed supply. This included a range of products from hand sanitiser and face masks to exploring the possibility of manufacturing ventilators locally in Tasmania. It's exciting but I'm not sure exactly where that's up to but we're certainly exploring that possibility.

The federal Treasurer recognised our state's efforts in the Australian Government Budget Speech last month, specifically mentioning our gin distilleries stepping up with hand sanitiser as a good example for that.

While the impacts of the pandemic are considerable, most manufacturers have been able to continue to operate. Unfortunately, there were jobs lost both temporarily and in the longer term. Data is not available at this stage to quantify those numbers down to a sector level but we will have that at some point, if that is possible. In those instances of people being displaced from an employer individually, or in some unfortunate occasions redundancies, we have offered support and assistance to those employees and we had the Rapid Response Skills Initiative and those types of things as well.

In response to COVID-19, our Government through the Tasmanian Development Board provided loans to 21 manufacturers, totalling $2 469 300. We provided 173 manufacturers with grants under round 2 of the emergency support grants totalling $422 500 and 114 manufacturers were provided with hardship grants totalling just over $1 million.

It is pleasing to see the Tasmanian Minerals, Manufacturing and Energy Council working in partnership with us to support rebuilding the sector through its proactive support to industry in developing a future workforce, building sector collaboration and alliances, advising and training in businesses, systems improvements and its efforts in growing the Tasmanian Manufacturing Centre of Excellence. Despite this difficult period, it has become a very impressive centre, I have to say.