Australian manufacturing has a bright future, maybe. If we can look past the past and into the future; if we can get the government out of the way and let us be awesome; and if people can reconcile that we will never drive an Aussie made car again… If all these things happen Australian manufacturing will thrive again.
Australia’s manufacturing future is craft. It’s good things made in small batches. It’s high quality and ingenuity over mass produced and homogeneous. It’s food and booze not clothing and textiles. It’s stuff where we have a natural competitive advantage, not things where we need hand-outs, leg-ups or trade protection.
Now I’m going to warn you that there is a totally self-serving piece of promotion coming up, so if it makes you uncomfortable, look away. But it gives context. It tells a real story, so here it is…
Three weeks ago I received an email that the gin brand I am lucky enough to be partner in, Four Pillars, had won a Double Gold medal at the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco – at our first attempt. Boom! We had made what good judges thought was one of the nine best in the world. We make this gin in small batches in the Yarra Valley and we’ve been at it for less than a year.
Our win received a little bit of publicity and it was bookended by two other brands winning awards that make me see a bright future for Aussie food and booze. A couple weeks before we won our award, a small whisky distillery in Tasmania, Sullivans Cove, was voted the World’s Best Whisky at a serious and credible competition in the UK. You can read the story here. It is a brilliant result for a small distillery that has been going almost 20 years.
And then last week Cobram Estate, Australia’s biggest olive oil producer, jagged a couple of international awards at a global food showcase in New York. And this was the second year in a row it has happened. And yes, thanks for asking, I know and like the Cobram Estate guys and I’ve met and tasted the Sullivan’s Cove drinks and yes I am massive fans of them both.
It is important to note we are craft, not “cottage” industries. We are serious brands wanting to take great products to the world. But with one simple caveat:
PLEASE, can I beg our Treasurer and his mates TO GET OUT OF OUR WAY.
Get this – the Federal government makes almost THREE TIMES more revenue out of one bottle of our gin than we, the producer, do. Yep that’s right. We make around $12 per bottle (and then we take out COGs and expenses) and the Feds get $24 excise plus $5 GST – so close to $30 PER BOTTLE! It’s INSANE.
And it makes Australia the highest taxed spirits industry in the world. An American craft distiller is taxed 10 TIMES less than we are. Yes, granted, we like Austrade but this sort of punitive tax regime HAS to be fixed to allow more of us to flourish and employ many more thousands of people in our craft industry.
And don’t start me on us being part of the alcohol “problem” this country supposedly faces (which it doesn’t, but that’s another story).
OK, political soapboxing complete.
Here is a message – to the cheese and ice cream makers, the olive oil producers, the distillers, the winemakers, the brewers, the bakers and the tea and coffee makers… WE, yes WE are the future of manufacturing for this country. We manufacture things that are the world’s best and we showcase them proudly across the globe. And we win. We show that Australia is a sophisticated, tasty, discerning, clever, creative and crafty country.
Long may Aussie manufacturing reign. I reckon we should all drink to that. Who’s with me?