In proportion to its total population, Australia is one of the world's most highly industrialized countries. The manufacturing sector has undergone significant expansion in recent years and turns out goods ranging from traditional textiles and processed foodstuffs too automobiles, chemicals, specialty steels and plastics, to elaborately transformed manufactures (ETMs), such as high speed ferries, telecommunications equipment and motor vehicles, which in 2001 made up about 23% of its total exports. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the leading manufacturing industries on the basis of sales in 2001 were food and beverage manufacturing (22%); machinery and equipment manufacturing (20%); metal product manufacturing (18%), and petroleum, coal, chemical and associated product manufacturing (15%). In 2002 and 2003 other strong performers are expected to be printing, publishing, food processing, petroleum products, and machinery and equipment industries. In 1995, manufacturing accounted for $48.8 billion, or about 15% of GDP. By 2000, the value of manufactures had fallen in absolute and relative terms, to $45.5 billion, or about 13% of GDP, continuing 20 years of post-industrial transformation to a services-dominated economy. In 2000, however, manufacturing grew by 4%, above the overall economy's rate of 3.2%. Industry as a whole, which accounted for 31% of the GDP, grew by an annual average of 1.3% between 1987 and 1997. The Asian crisis caused metals and machinery and equipment sales to fall by about 5% in 1998; but the food and beverages, petrochemicals, and printing industries averaged growth of 6%.
Australia is self-sufficient in beverages, most foods, building materials, many common chemicals, some domestic electrical appliances, radios, plastics, textiles, and clothing; in addition, most of its needed communications equipment, farm machinery (except tractors), furniture, leather goods, and metal manufactures are domestically produced. Recent years have seen the rapid growth of high-tech industries including aircraft, communications and other electronic equipment, electrical appliances and machinery, pharmaceuticals, and scientific equipment, and the government has supported the growth of these new sectors. High-tech industry contributes a substantial amount to the economy, with an annual growth rate of 20% expected until 2010. Many manufacturing companies are closely connected—financially and technically—with manufacturers in the European Union, the United States, or Asia.