Be prepared: Labor’s $1.5b fund for medical manufacturing

James Riley
Editorial Director

Federal Labor will on Tuesday unveil another targeted industry fund, this time focused on medical manufacturing and with the aim to “turn science into more jobs” and secure domestic supply chains for medical technology and vaccine production.

The planned $1.5 billion Medical Manufacturing Fund is a part of Labor’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund election commitment.

If it wins the election next weekend Labor said it would work with industry to identify ways that government procurement strategies can be used to build local manufacturing capability, create high-value jobs and strengthen key strategic capabilities.

The fund is the third $1 billion-plus industry fund that Labor has committed to in recent days after it unveiled a Critical Technologies Fund on Friday and an Advanced Manufacturing Fund on Monday.

vaccine certificate
Under the microscope: Labor medical manufacturing plan

Labor is arguing that the Coalition governments had allowed domestic productive capacity for medical technology and pharmaceuticals to run down, and the new fund would return the trend.

“After nine years, supply chain vulnerabilities exist for critical products necessary for Australia’s health, safety and well-being in a crisis including medicines and personal protective equipment. Yet little has been done to tackle this,” it said in a statement.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said “a country that takes its pandemic preparedness seriously would have ensured that we made more rapid tests and vaccines here. Serious countries should make things.”

In announcing the fund, Labor quoted a 2018 industry report that found the medical technology sector could add $18 billion to the Australian economy and around 28,000 new jobs within the next eight years.

“We once had a proud heritage of medical manufacture in this country that has been undermined by a Coalition government that often refuses to work with or back with local firms,” shadow Industry minister Ed Husic.

“There was no stronger proof of this when it became easier to buy an Australian-made rapid test in the US and parts of Europe than it was in the very country they’re made,” he said.

“Australian firms stand ready to manufacture essential medical supplies. They just need a government who’ll back them.”

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