Whilst I have made some comments about this recently in our online Blog, given what I believe is it’s importance I consider that it is worthy of further comment here.
Growing in 2013 and arriving with a real crunch in the first part of 2014 has been the reality that a number of our Australian industries that have grown and developed over the two centuries of this countries modern economic period, are about to close permanently, at least for those alive now, in our foreseeable future. With these closures will also go a number of jobs that have provided staple employment to a number of communities for many years.
The following (logical) issue of course will be the impact on supply industries and businesses, and what of those will remain. The Alcoa decision is one of those, if there is no automotive manufacturing in Victoria/South Australia, then without an immediately obvious replacement, there is no real need for a smelter.
One of the benefits (or penalties) depending on how you look at it, of my youth was being born with a Mother who had a passion about history, but most particularly Australian history. As such I was engrained from an early age with the deeds of our forebears, their trials and tribulations, their desires and fears and most importantly their visions. Consistently over our earlier history there was a burning and passionate belief in the growth and unity of the nation and it was something that was visible at virtually every level of society. It was a very Australian thing, it was part of our ethos and it was a contributor to the ANZAC legend. In the eyes of many there was nothing that was being done overseas that could not ultimately be done here, if not done better here, and it was on this belief that many industries were born. What was also of interest was that there was this Australian vision, you could look at it from the right, or you could look at it from the left, but there in the middle was this genuine and substantive nationalistic vision that was shared.
Today we see these industries fall under a present belief that we simply cannot sustain them; but the real question that we and the Government should be asking is “from what perspective?” To better clarify my issue; as we dig big holes all over North Western Sydney to make way for a railway I am reminded of the words of the then NSW Government Railways in the late 1940’s when the then extant line (predominantly goods) to Castle Hill was closed. The Department stated at the time that “there was no point in its retention for passenger use as the area was too far from Sydney to ever be capable of becoming a dormitory suburb.” Somehow I think they missed something. Mind you though, before the War someone did have the vision to build a bridge with eight lanes, two rail tracks and two tram tracks!
The further visibility of the underlying issue was raised recently by the NRMA when they reported that we now hold no more than three (3) weeks supply of automotive fuel within the country. Regrettably I am old enough to remember the queuing for petrol during those famous strikes of the 1970’s and 80’s. So I do fear, given our reliance on road transport, such a situation.
Yes I understand that economic drivers, business rationalism and globalisation are forcing things to the cheapest provider but we must look not only at today, but also at tomorrow. As I have indicated elsewhere, this is not simply an issue for manufacturers it is also for everyone else where we export our jobs overseas, accountant, lawyer service industry, manufacturing, etc. What are we really creating for our children? What is genuinely the modern Australian vision? Too whom, or what, will we be subservient to in the future?
To revive something that exists, but is not operational, is one thing, but to completely restart can often be economically impossible. We have some (but lessening) time for thinking. Just as we train, and are trained in Business Planning, that you must have a goal, if you don’t have a goal then firstly you won’t know if you ever get there, but more importantly you won’t know what steps to take along the way. Australia is now in desperate need of a Vision, its own Vision. Certainly one that can be looked at from both sides, but nonetheless a Vision that stands between these views with its own clear identity and one that is committed to by all. If we continue with three (or more) visions then while we play games changing sides, others will move our industry and our jobs into their Vision.