Soldiers deployed to boost face-mask manufacturing

Med-Con, in regional Victoria, has increased production of medical face masks with the help of Australian Army engineers as a temporary workforce.

CAPTION: Australian Army soldier Corporal Sander Vloothuis and Med-Con employee Lynn Stockwell inspect a surgical face mask off the production line. Photo by Corporal Sagi Biderman.

The Army callout is part of a federal government push to help local industry to increase domestic production of medical protective equipment such as surgical face masks, sanitizer, goggles and gowns amid the outbreak of COVID-19.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said around a dozen ADF personnel were helping under Defence Assistance to the Civil Community (DACC) arrangements.

“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,” Minister Reynolds said.

“These skilled soldiers are with the company’s existing staff on production, maintenance and warehousing tasks.

“The Defence support will fill a short-term gap while Med-Con recruits and trains supplementary staff.

“This is an example of the kind of exceptional circumstances which DACC rules are designed to cover.”

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said from helping them to access new equipment to providing staff, they were doing what they could to enable companies such as Med-Con to ramp up production and boost domestic capacity.

“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,” Minister Andrews said.

The government has put out a Request for Information (RFI) to get an understanding of the manufacturing capability and capacity that exists domestically, so that as a country, we can position to increase production of these products at home.

Minister Andrews said they were casting the net as widely as possible, asking manufacturers if they have the ability to diversify the work they already do.

“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.”


EDITOR’S TUPPENCE WORTH: Australia’s sovereign production has been shamefully allowed to dwindle over many years, under all governments, as the economic lure of cheap Chinese manufacturing and the push of high domestic labour costs attracts Aussie companies offshore.

The Australian public is equally to blame – voting with their wallets for cheaper and cheaper products in what has evolved into a buy-use-throw-away wasteful society, now on the brink of social collapse in the face of this bio ‘crisis’.

Maybe this is the recession crisis we had to have to wake us up.





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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

4 thoughts on “Soldiers deployed to boost face-mask manufacturing

  • 22/03/2020 at 1:39 pm

    Hi Brian
    Until I retired a couple of years ago I was a long time member of the defence support industries. I’ve worked in logistics, shipping/purchasing/stores, electronic production lines and management/admin.

    In one job I worked in the sourcing of sub miniature super complex multilayer printed circuit boards (PCB) for a Canberra based manufacturing company. I had been working for many years assisting Australian PCB manufacturers to improve their processes to gain access to the world markets. There were 3 or 4 in Australia that were moving along and a couple that were on the verge of world wide approvals when the then federal government pulled the rug out from under the industry. Not only did they remove subsidies but they informed thecompanies they would not be allowed to keep the capability in country and had to sell their equipment offshore.

    A couple of years later I attended a Canberra based gathering of industry folk and was bailed up by a high ranking RAAF officer who wanted advice on where he could get high tech PCB’s made in Oz for the JSS project. When I told him that the Oz gov had shut it down and he would now have to go offshore like the rest of us he would not believe me. He needed Oz content for the offsets. Not sure how they got around it, I never heard from them again.



    • 22/03/2020 at 3:04 pm

      Well, I believe you Mike. It’s sickening.
      I came to Australia in the mid ’80s and I distinctly remember something like a 4 Corners report about how the government was allowing the Australian shipbuilding and shipping industries to wind down. I was shocked, horrified, incredulous. Yet, here we are, more than 30 years later, trying to build it up again from scratch. Beggars belief.
      Then again – not really!

  • 22/03/2020 at 11:06 am

    Agree entirely with your postscript!

    • 22/03/2020 at 3:04 pm

      Thanks Trevor.


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