Ovato chair Michael Hannan’s plea for manufacturing sector support

Michael Hannan

“I’m championing the printing industry, but is anyone listening?”

The chairman of giant media, marketing and printing company Ovato, Michael Hannan, has written about how his sector is hurting from the impact of Covid-19. Below is an open letter he has written to the Government.

Everyone is suffering but some doing it more silently than others, not out of choice but because they have no voice, every news report all we hear about are football & 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 $250 million 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’m championing the printing industry and believe it or not it’s 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. Before that for those that remember it was the infamous $60 million loan to keep Kodak in the country only to have them fold their tent and go home and never repay the loan. No one apparently told them that digital was going to replace film.

To survive, manufacturers will need to re-invent themselves post pandemic and do things differently. 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 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 – some 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!

Top Photo: Michael Hannan, Chairman at Ovato

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