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As Australia readies itself to open-up to the rest of the world, two major pharmaceutical manufacturers are closing factories and drastically reducing output.

Next year the GSK plant in Melbourne is slated to close its doors, while Pfizer has said it will shut up shop at its Perth factory in 2023. As a result, more than 800 advanced manufacturing workers will be out of a job.

Instead of intervening to prevent the pending closures, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been capitalising on state v state angst by making states compete in a bid to host a new mRNA manufacturing facility.

However, there has been very little movement in the space since 2020, when Morrison announced that Australia would manufacture mRNA vaccines in some capacity.

United Workers Union Allied director Godfrey Moase, who appeared at a Senate Inquiry into manufacturing today, said that allowing two advanced manufacturing factories to close in the middle of a pandemic was short-sighted.

“Australia is undergoing a manufacturing crisis that has been overseen by successive Coalition Governments. We are dead last in OECD rankings of manufacturing self-sufficiency,” Mr Moase said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed huge flaws in Australia’s reliance on overseas manufacturing. At various times over the past two years there have been shortages in medicines. At one point, face masks and hand sanitiser were impossible to come upon.

“Instead of looking for opportunities and addressing some of these gaps, Morrison has been asleep at the wheel and has allowed manufacturing to deteriorate even further.

“The time is ripe to turn the ship around on manufacturing, particularly in pharmaceuticals, where even small increases in capacity would be of huge benefit to the economy and the community.”

Research has shown that if Australia was to produce as much manufactured output as it consumes, that the benefits would be substantial, including the generation of around half-a-million direct and indirect jobs.

Victorian Labor Senator Jess Walsh and member of the Economic References Committee said, “having a strong, sovereign pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in Australia is absolutely vital. Scott Morrison’s bungled vaccine rollout demonstrated how exposed we are to global supply issues if we don’t.”

“We have 300 highly skilled pharmaceutical workers in Victoria and hundreds more around the country out of a job. We need to hear from them as to how this happened.”

Mr Moase and two UWU members will appeared at the Senate committee. More information on the committee can be found here. To read UWU’s submission in full, click here.


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