The Morrison government is working with local industry to expand domestic production of critical equipment for managing coronavirus, with soldiers being deployed to assist in at least one factory.
The government is focusing on surgical face masks, sanitizer, goggles and gowns at this stage.
With support of the government and the Australian Defence Force, Med-Con Pty Ltd, a manufacturer near Shepparton in Victoria – is already accelerating production of vital protective equipment.
The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the government was working with industry to considerably ramp up manufacturing capability as the coronavirus situation unfolds.
“From helping to access new equipment to providing staff, we are doing what we can to enable companies like Med-Con to ramp up production and boost our domestic capacity,” Ms Andrews said.
“There’s a lot of fear in the community at the moment but Australians should know that work is happening to help us best respond to this unfolding crisis.
“This is important work but it’s also essential we get it right – this equipment needs to be produced to the highest standards.”
Roughly a dozen defence force personnel are directly assisting the effort at the Shepparton factory, said the Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds.
“The team, which is comprised of highly qualified engineering maintenance specialists from the Army Logistic Training Centre and the Joint Logistics Unit – Victoria, are supporting the request,” Ms Reynolds said.
“These skilled soldiers are with the company’s existing staff on production, maintenance and warehousing tasks.”
The assistance is taking place under a program called Defence Assistance to the Civil Community (DACC).
“The Defence support will fill a short-term gap while Med-Con Pty Ltd recruits and trains supplementary staff. This is an example of the kind of exceptional circumstances which the DACC rules are designed to cover.”
In addition to these immediate measures, the government is undertaking broader, strategic analysis of industry capacity to deal with potential scenarios that may unfold.
“We are casting the net as widely as we can, asking manufacturers if they have the ability to diversify the work they do,” Ms Andrews said.
“As those opportunities continue to present we will work with manufacturers to support their transition.
“Australian manufacturers have already been reaching out with offers to help. I’m confident our Aussie ingenuity will guide us through this difficult time.”