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In December 2000, DIST released its Action Agenda on Chemicals .

Our comments apply to the Draft Executive Summary (pending our review ) of 12 December 2000 that said....

bulletThe Chemical Industry is currently "fighting to do little more than stand still."
bulletThe deficit in trade in chemicals will grow to A$16 billion by 2010.

Its key recommendations are: (with our comments in italics). 

bulletInclude for regulations to be consistent and recognise those of other countries 

(ie. no regard to the potential to promote competitiveness).

bullet"The Commonwealth to pay for common use infrastructure with the cost to to be repaid through user fees." 

By implication a public subsidy, the question of which infrastructure. The government has a record of supporting mature industries (eg. motor vehicles) or for commodity products (eg. alumina).

bulletIndustry and government to work together to ensure training delivery systems meet industry needs, and are nationally consistent, particularly for the plastics sector. 

This fails to recognise future needs and the implications of current bias to old industry or unrepresented industry.

Note the Steering Group, next.

Representative Key activity Ownership Export? R&D in Aust. leading to innovation development in Aust.

Australian Challenge

Plastics processor

Australian

NO (modest) NO

Nylex Polymer Group

Plastics processor

European

NO ?

Wipco

Plastic pipes and fittings

Australian

NO NO

Ecolab

Detergent formulating

USA

NO NO

Cussons Pty Ltd

Soap manufacture and detergent

European

NO NO

Ameron (Australia)

Formulation and importer of surface

USA

NO NO

Qenos

Manufacturer of Explosives & polymers

Australian/US

5 % NO

Wesfarmers CSBP

Ammonia, ammonium nitrate, fertiliser

Australian

NO NO

APS Chemicals

Organic formulation & synthesis

Australian

NO YES

Dow Chemical

Polyols and styrene polymers & foams

USA

NO NO

CSIRO

Government research

Australian

N/a YES

PACIA

Industry association

Association

N/a NO

Dept Resources Devt

State Government

Government

N/a NO

Dept of State & Reg Devt

State Government

Government

N/a NO

Dept of State & Reg Devt

State Government agency

 Government

N/a NO

The Royal Australian Chemical Institute

Academe

 

N/a NO
 
bulletSupport for landmark project that is at the forefront of science and innovation that integrates the chemical industry into other sectors, such as the emerging bioprocessing industry.

This is picking winners again ('sunrise' industry) without regard to industries where Australia is particularly competitive as in the mineral processing sector. The interface with competitive industry (resources) can be particularly important sources of competitiveness generation. Technology has 'leaked' out of Australia. 

The committee fails to recognise that: 

    domestic competition, notably at the the interface of other competitive industries; and

     progressive regulations (ie. not those that follow international trends)

can be a particularly effective sources of competitive industries (Michael Porter, 'The Competitive Advantage of Nations').

Governments at state and federal level continue their factor cost based initiatives and indeed contribute to be describe the chemical industry in Australia as...

"fighting to do little more than stand still." We most certainly agree on that point. 

Australia stands in stark contrast to more progressive countries and is behaving like a third-world resource rich economy. Government has the opportunity to become a facilitator of change but seems trapped by political expediency and, being off the public agenda, applies limited funds except for politically motivated support for very mature industries exclusively foreign owned. There are signs of change, but these are occurring despite, not because, of government. We call for a accountability, an address of economic efficiency and with less political expediency of preservation.

 

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