'HECS-like scheme needed' as print adapts post pandemic

An initiative like the HECS (educational loans) scheme is needed to ensure printers survive as government JobKeeper funding comes to an end, but COVID-19 impacts do not.

That's the view of Michael Hannan, chairman of commercial printing giant Ovato and third-generation Australian printer.

He says a mechanism is needed to ensure that manufacturing and the printing industry - Australia's largest - "can still carve out a new future in this country post COVID-19".

In a LinkedIn post, Hannan says some are suffering more silently, not out of choice but because they have no voice.

"Manufacturing used to be strong in Australia," he says. "But is anyone championing the cause or yelling from the rooftops about the state that many sectors of the manufacturing industry find themselves in because of COVID-19? Look at the difference in media attention being paid between manufacturing and the arts industry. Powerful people have powerful voices, and we need to work together to make our industries' voice heard."

Hannan says he is championing the printing industry, which is the largest sector in Australian manufacturing. "Our company alone employs 1300 people.

"Manufacturing continues to be a big employer nationally, but from blanket coverage of COVID-19 there is hardly a mention in the news."

Despite newspapers continuing to close and more products being bought online, print is still a big industry, and needs a voice.

"JobKeeper is to be applauded as it has kept many in the country employed, but there is a huge cliff in front of us all at the end of September which will be near impossible to climb," he says. "The impact of COVID-19 will not end anywhere near as surgically as JobKeeper is slated to end."

He says some assistance from government, even some recognition that what we do matters, would be helpful. "To survive, manufacturers will need to re-invent themselves post-pandemic and do things differently. Many jobs will likely be shed as we adapt to a post COVID-19 world, but if companies had continued access to funding beyond a JobKeeper-type initiative then the carnage to the sector can be avoided."

Hannan says handouts aren't needed, but loans or advances - such as a HECS-like scheme for manufacturers to be re-paid out of future profit - are. "We need a mechanism to ensure that manufacturing and the printing industry can still carve out a new future in this country post COVID-19.

"We all have a voice, and we need to be champions for our cause," he says.

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