A new report has shown a rebound in Australian manufacturing, with the sector adding 40,000 new jobs in the last year.

The report, Manufacturing: A Moment of Opportunity, identifies several indicators which suggest that the economic opportunities for domestic manufacturing have improved significantly. Prepared by the Centre for Future Work, part of the Australia Institute thinktank, it outlines the industry’s dogged resilience in difficult times, its importance to the Australian economy, and its more hopeful future prospects.

“Australia’s manufacturing industry faces some daunting domestic and global challenges. But it’s not just surviving, it’s finding a way to grow, adding 40,000 new jobs last year,” said Dr Jim Stanford, Director of the Centre for Future Work. “That ranks manufacturing as the second biggest source of new jobs in Australia last year.Additionally, manufacturing re-invests 5% of its value added in R&D, the highest of any industry, making it an engine room for innovation in the economy.”

The report was launched on 21 June to coincide with the National Manufacturing Summit, held by the two organisations at Parliament House in Canberra. The event featured presentations from a wide range of experts from industry, university, trade unions and the financial sector, as well as four top political spokespersons: Minister for Industry Senator Arthur Sinodinos, Shadow Minister for Industry Senator Kim Carr, Greens Industry spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon, and NXT leader Senator Nick Xenophon.

New polling released as part of the report shows that Australians are very supportive of pro-active, targeted policy measures to sustain and support manufacturing. Perhaps influenced by the negative tone of much recent commentary, Australians consistently underestimate the size of manufacturing in Australia’s economy, relative to other industries, but nonetheless recognise the value of maintaining a strong manufacturing sector.

Specifically, there was strong support for targeted policies such as government procurement mandates (81%) and tax incentives tied to investments in domestic facilities (79%); support was strong across all age and voting groups. Australians opposed measures to attract industry by cutting wages, environmental standards, or across-the-board taxes. But measures focused on manufacturing, tied to Australian production and jobs, received overwhelming support – by a margin of up to five-to-one.

“Both economically and politically, the smart move would be for legislators to get behind local manufacturing with targeted policies to support Australian jobs, ” Stanford said.