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Unpacking the 2024/5 Federal Budget and what it means for the Australian fashion & textile industry

The Future Made in Australia initiative, with its $22.7 billion investment, aims to position Australia as a key player in the global economy.

by Sarah McLean

24 May 2024

The Australian Fashion Council (AFC) welcomes the recent Federal Budget, recognising the significant opportunities it presents for our industry as well as the missed opportunity to support added value.   

The Government's comprehensive support for innovation, small businesses, and sustainable practices provides a solid foundation for growth, though we must navigate these opportunities with careful planning, collaboration and resilience.

CREATING ECONOMIC SECURITY FOR WOMEN

As a 77% female powered industry, one of the standout elements of the Budget is the emphasis on gender equality in the workforce. There are a number of investments for women in work, including cost of living relief to women taxpayers, superannuation payments of government paid parental leave and fee-free TAFE places. The Building Women’s Careers program will support women to achieve high-paying careers in key male-dominated industries and sectors, particularly construction, clean energy, technology and digital, and manufacturing  This can also contribute to the lack of career pathways, skill gaps and workforce shortages in the Fashion and Textiles Industry through:

  • Developing a nationwide apprenticeship and traineeship programs;
  • Promoting career pathways to school leavers, women looking to re-enter the workforce, migrants and refugee workers; and
  • Upskilling and retraining current workers to use new technologies, now and for the future.

By providing such opportunities and support, the Government is helping to unlock the full potential of Australia's talent pool. Ensuring women have the resources and opportunities to thrive will strengthen our industry's foundation and unlock future growth and employment.

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY FOR STRATEGIC INVESTMENT FOR A COMPETITIVE INDUSTRY

The Future Made in Australia initiative, with its $22.7 billion investment, aims to position Australia as a key player in the global economy. This package includes significant support for advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and digital innovation – all of which are crucial for the fashion industry's evolution, sustainability and competitiveness. 

In our view however, the Government has missed an opportunity to recognise the powerhouse that is the Australian Fashion and Textile Industry and leverage its potential to generate $33 billion in incremental value for the Australian economy in the next 5 years (EY Industry Modelling 2022). We agree that the focus on right-shoring and increasing domestic manufacturing is critical for economic growth and supply chain resilience and our industry is well positioned to ensure that Australia retains sovereign capability in clothing and textiles.  

As outlined in the AFC’s 2024/25 Pre-Budget Submission, future growth and success of the industry can be unlocked via: 

  • Creation of a foundational roadmap to both develop a right-shoring plan;
  • Mapping nationally existing local production and manufacturing capabilities, as the AFC is currently doing with its partners RMIT and Epson in Victoria;
  • Undertaking feasibility and pilot studies to right-shore manufacturing;
  • Supporting ‘value adding to fibre’ pilot projects to develop circular products – from Australian farm to fibre, to textiles and clothing;
  • Developing a stronger Australian Government Uniforms Procurement Scheme to buy from Australian owned businesses with local manufacturing.

The Government’s Buy Australian Plan aims to build domestic capability through the Australian Government’s purchasing power. Australian Government uniform procurement should factor into this to allow Australian manufacturers the fiscal stability to service SME businesses and opportunity for R&D. The AFC will continue to advocate for the Government to recognise the Australian Fashion and Textile Industry as one of the priority industries in its National Interest Framework and help build and retain sovereign manufacturing capability.

DRIVING DEMAND FOR AUSTRALIAN FASHION GLOBALLY

The $10.9m committed to enhance the Go Global Toolkit online platform to help all businesses build export capability is a positive step. However, in addition, our industry would benefit from collective marketing to truly leverage its potential, competitive edge.  EY's 2022 industry modelling report also reports  a 5:1 return on investment of a well-designed international Australian Fashion program. With exports of $7.2 billion in 2021, more than wine and beer combined, our industry can deliver this ROI while also positioning Australia on the global stage for design-led, high quality, sustainable fashion and textiles. 

SUPPORTING SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES

Sustainability is at the heart of the Government's agenda. The $17.3 million commitment to mobilise private investment in sustainable activities, alongside the development of a sustainable finance taxonomy for the agriculture sector, aligns with the AFC’s vision for a more socially and environmentally responsible industry. While these measures are a positive step, successfully implementing similar sustainable practices in the fashion industry will need strong and coordinated efforts from all parts of the industry, including businesses, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

As signalled by the AFC Innovation & Sustainability Showcase held at Kirribilli House earlier this month, our industry is primed to take a global leadership role in design-led, sustainable, high quality clothing and circular technology solutions.  In the coming months the AFC will continue its engagement of key government stakeholders at both the federal and state levels. With the right recognition of and investment into the sector, the future of fashion can be Australian.

How can the government best support the local textile and clothing manufacturing industry to meet its future challenges? Share your thoughts with AFC CEO Jaana Quaintance-James  (jquaintancejames@ausfashioncouncil.com)

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