Peter Robinson’s “Cultural Vacuum” arguably best describes what we have really lost with the demise of automotive manufacturing in Australia. The job losses will prove to be far more extensive than simply the workers who were employed by Ford, Toyota and Holden. It will extend to all the suppliers, from raw materials including aluminium and steel, to foundry workers producing wheels, manufacturers of carpets, seats, light assemblies and an endless list of components.
And then there are the logistics-chain workers who transport all those items and then transport finished products. How long before our highly skilled engineers will have nowhere to get their basic grounding if they are not picked up by overseas companies? And what happens if overseas supply costs increase significantly or if there is a conflict that impacts on our ability to source things from overseas?
The excuse that our labour costs are too high ignores the success of other manufacturing countries with high living standards. How do they do it in Norway, Germany or Great Britain? Maybe they have tariffs on imports, or maybe they have grants to local manufacturers and Australia is too stupid to realise that there are benefits that flow from that. Although we seem willing to ‘lend’ $1 billion to create less than 1500 short-term jobs to an overseas coal magnate. It makes you wonder why, in today’s political environment, a car industry could not be supported but a coal industry can.
I suspect that there are many who will regret the short-sighted decisions that have led to Holden’s demise.