Australia's plastic packaging industry received a favorable report from a major government inquiry into the structure and competitiveness of Australian packaging. The inquiry followed complaints from Australian food and beverage manufacturers of the high costs of plastics packaging.
In March 1995, the Melbourne-based Industry Commission - now renamed the Productivity Commission - launched a comprehensive review of the supply of packaging to Australia's downstream industries. The commission is a government-financed, independent organization that reviews industry policies. The inquiry attracted 210 written submissions and included public hearings in all Australian capital cities.
The final report was tabled in Australia's Federal Parliament last month.
Gavin Williams, Packaging Council of Australia chief executive, said the report found Australia's plastic packaging costs were not an issue. He said there were specific, competitive recommendations for other packaging sectors, but not plastics.
The report said the introduction of competitive pressures on Australia's monopoly producers of tin plate and aluminum can stock would lower costs for end users in those sectors.
Williams said the report made no overall condemnation of Australian packaging costs. Ultimately, costs depend on individual relationships between end users and packaging companies, he said.
``There was no overall recommendation that said our packaging industry was not up to scratch,'' Williams said.
The report valued Australia's annual packaging sales at A$6 billion (US$4.74 billion), with plastic packaging contributing 27 percent. It said Australia represents about 1 percent of world packaging production.
Williams also noted that Australian packaging companies increasingly are expanding offshore. Major firms, such as Melbourne-based Amcor Ltd., now gain as much as 40 percent of their sales overseas.
``We are internationally competitive,'' he said. ``It seems ludicrous that you could compete offshore, but not be competitive in Australia.''
Williams said Australia's packaging industry and food companies have to work together to capitalize on growth opportunities in Asian countries, which have annual packaging growth rates of 8-10 percent. He said plastics, particularly PET and flexible packaging, are the growth packaging materials worldwide.