Hannan: Industry facing a cliff, support needed
Michael Hannan, chairman at print giant Ovato, has used LinkedIn to deliver a strong message calling for government support once JobKeeper expires at the end of September, warning that if nothing is forthcoming “absolute carnage” in manufacturing will follow.
Hannan warns that manufacturing, including printing, is facing a huge cliff when September comes if there is no action, and says he is not looking at handouts, but rather loans or advances that will be paid back. He says manufacturing needs a voice to communicate the reality of the situation.
He says manufacturing does not have the same influence on government policy found in other areas, such as the arts which has just received a $250m package, or football codes, or airlines, but without recognition the future could be stark.
Hannan's comments will resonate across industry. He is one of the highest profile and most respected figures in print. He created one of the most successful companies in the history of the Australian print industry, and has had his finger on the pulse of local print manufacturing for the past 50 years.
JobKeeper has been underpinning the commercial print industry since its introduction in April, with virtually all commercial printers implementing it, resulting in hardly any printers going to the wall, despite a huge drop off in work for many companies.
Hannan writes, “Everyone is suffering but some doing it more silently than others, not out of choice but because they have no voice. In every news report all we hear about are football and sporting codes talking like they are the only ones financially affected, or the tourism and travel sector and the airlines or the universities wringing their hands because the Chinese students haven’t returned. Today we have the arts getting $250m to get back on their feet. Powerful people have influence.
“Manufacturing, yes it’s the process of actually making things, used to be strong in Australia, but has anyone been championing the cause or screaming from the rooftops about the state that many sectors of the manufacturing industry are in because of Covid?
“I am championing the printing industry, and believe it or not it is the largest sector in Australian manufacturing, our company alone employs 1,300 people, and across the industry some revenue in some sectors is never coming back, as the Covid impact has changed the way people market their products. Newspapers have closed, and we are buying more products on line, but it is still a big industry, just not as big as it once was. Manufacturing is a big employer nationally, but from blanket coverage of Covid - hardly a mention.
“We need a voice, we need people to speak up for us, many livelihoods are at stake. JobKeeper is to be applauded as it has kept the country alive, but there is a huge cliff in front of us all at the end of September, which will be near impossible to climb as the impact of Covid will not end anywhere near as surgically as JobKeeper. Perhaps 18 months before we settle on a new form of normal.
“Some assistance from government, even some recognition that what we do matters would be helpful and it’s not expecting too much, it’s not even giving them the challenge or indigestion of it setting a precedent. Look at the years the government threw billions of tax payer money at the big Japanese and American owned car companies, all a complete waste in the end, as they folded up their tent and went home when it suited them.
“To survive, manufacturers will need to re-invent themselves post-pandemic and do things differently, and yes many jobs will be shed to right-size for a post-Covid world, but if companies had access to funding beyond a JobKeeper type initiative then the absolute carnage to the sector that will follow otherwise can be avoided.
“Handouts aren’t needed, rather loans or advances, call it a HECS scheme for manufacturers, to be re-paid out of future profit, a mechanism to ensure that manufacturing and the printing industry can still carve out a new future in this country post-Covid.
“We need a voice, we need champions for the cause.”