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Rest in Peace

Rest in Peace, another few hundred thousand Australian workers and their families. Labor Senator Kim Carr today fails to deliver for the Australian automotive industry, writes Andreas Bimba.

This morning (16 May 2016) Labor Senator Kim Carr effectively rubber stamped the appalling policy and actions of the Liberal/National Party-Tony Abbott led federal government in late 2013 that will lead to the imminent closure of much of Australia’s car manufacturing industry and its 200,000 associated jobs.

The last three Australian car manufacturers, Ford, Holden and Toyota will be closing their Australian car manufacturing operations later this year and in 2017. A major policy announcement by the ALP that they would undertake substantial change to Australia’s current industrial policy settings that would force a rethink on viability by the three remaining local car manufacturers, or probably more realistically by some new entrants, was the last real chance that the industry had to continue operations in a substantial way but this did not happen today.

Alternatively if enough of the electorate voted for the Australian Greens so that they were able to form part of our next federal government then again the Australian automotive industry could have a good chance of survival and indeed expansion but reaching the electorate effectively with this message takes time, media access that is currently denied and significant financial resources.

This morning on ABC Radio National, Senator Kim Carr talked of a $59 million fund to assist with transitioning many of the affected businesses to international markets, new advanced manufacturing niches and with other forms of assistance. To the less well informed this may sound like good policy, and it no doubt is as far as it goes but this sum of money is unfortunately just a trivial token and finally confirms the demise of all of the local car assembly portion of our car manufacturing industry and probably much of the components manufacturing capacity as well. It is in reality yet another betrayal of Australia’s manufacturing industry and Australian families by the ALP which in the final analysis are not that much different than the Conservatives in the economic sphere despite offering better social and environmental policy. The ALP should have, and could have done better to undo Tony Abbot’s and Joe Hockey’s policy failures.

To be fair to Senator Kim Carr he most probably would have wanted to offer more, but a different mindset currently rules the ALP and has for quite a while and his hand has been forced by the decision of the last three local manufacturers to close their local car assembly operations. As previously mentioned a policy platform sufficiently powerful, for example one that offered a moderate imported car tariff of 15% or the equivalent level of ongoing industry support and a realistic plan for regaining market share, should nevertheless have been sufficient to convince some of the existing manufacturers, or new foreign or local car manufacturers, to assemble and manufacture cars in Australia well into the future. It was certainly worth a try and Australia is set to be a big loser because of this lack of political foresight and courage.

The estimate of 200,000 job losses is made up of about 50,000 workers (it’s actually now down to 40,000) directly employed by the remaining three car manufacturers and the car components industry and about 150,000 indirectly in the wider economy using a multiple of 3 to 1. Any businesses that are successful in finding alternative business opportunities will reduce the number of job losses. Note also that the industry is currently operating at less than half the output of what it did before the GFC and so current employment levels are also well down. The potential loss of employment capacity can therefore be reasonably assumed to be up to 400,000 (100,000 direct jobs) if the industry was operating at its easily attainable potential and if very few businesses survive the transition.

I have said this before but I urge all Australia’s politicians and interested parties to visit the Toyota Altona car manufacturing plant, or the Melbourne or Adelaide operations of Holden or Ford and then decide if we as a nation are doing the right thing by sending in the wrecking ball in a few months. I have given a link to Toyota Australia below where guided tours can still be arranged. In addition I have included a link to a very good National Geographic Channel video about the Toyota Altona plant.

There is no good reason why Australia with a new car market of over one million units p.a. cannot continue to have a profitable and large car manufacturing industry but a moderate level of industry support or protection is unavoidable due to the strengths of the competition faced and neither the Conservatives nor the ALP are willing to offer this even though the cost is minor compared to the hidden subsidies currently received by the Australian banking/finance sector, the real estate speculation sector and the mining industry. All of our competitors do offer substantial support or trade protection for their vehicle manufacturing industries because of the net economic benefit and Australia’s level of assistance in the past was consistently one of the lowest. Many researchers have proven that the net economic benefit to Australia of retaining our car manufacturing industry is many multiples higher than the cost to consumers of a moderate imported car tariff of 15% or the equivalent level of ongoing industry support.

Unlike the Conservatives and the ALP, the Australian Greens do however have as policy the transitioning of Australia’s car manufacturing industry to electric, hybrid and renewable fuel source vehicle assembly and component manufacture and also have as policy, the option of industry support and moderate trade protection where necessary to achieve this objective. The car is here to stay and but will need to evolve as it always has and become much more environmentally sustainable than before. Public transport, bicycles and even walking will play an ever bigger role in the future of transport but for many, the much maligned car will still be a worthy transport option.

The Australian Greens also have as policy the transitioning of the Australian economy to a sustainable future and for the establishment of new innovative and advanced locally based manufacturing industries in a much more ambitious and credible way than either of the old party blocs have been willing to deliver or promise. There wouldn’t be any cuts to the CSIRO and higher education under a Greens government but an urgent program of expansion.

As responsible citizens we should think more carefully about our votes, look at the bigger picture and reconsider just automatically voting for either of the old party blocs that time and time again continue to support our destructive and unnecessary journey down the monetarist or neo-liberal path which has led to the net loss of millions of well paid secure jobs for a wide cross section of Australians from unskilled and trades to professionals despite the many glowing promises made along the way.

About the author: Andreas Bimba is a mechanical engineer and former employee of Toyota Australia‘s manufacturing operations in Melbourne and a member of the Australian Greens. This article does not necessarily reflect the current policies and views of the Australian Greens.

Below are some relevant links:
Labor Senator Kim Carr’s 16 May 2016 statement on transitioning Australia’s automotive industry:
http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/content/s4462845.htm

A link to guided plant tours of the Toyota Altona car assembly plant and a good video of the factory:
http://www.toyota.com.au/toyota/company/operations/manufacturing
http://www.toyota.com.au/megafactories-toyota

Some useful statistics on Australia’s automotive industry:
http://www.industry.gov.au/industry/IndustrySectors/automotive/Statistics/Pages/automotivedatacard.aspx

George Monbiot’s excellent article on the dangers of neo-liberalism:
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/15/neoliberalism-ideology-problem-george-monbiot?CMP=share_btn_tw

Australian Greens policy on the Australian car manufacturing industry:
http://www.adambandt.com/150220_greensactoncarindustrycrisis
http://www.carsguide.com.au/car-news/push-for-government-to-support-electric-car-manufacturing-36272
http://greens.org.au/policy-platform

A good starting point on the necessity of good industrial policy settings by Professor Goran Roos (he has produced a great body of relevant work):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eEFH0QS2oQ

Some of my AIMN articles relevant to this topic:
https://theaimn.com/an-economic-blueprint-for-a-sustained-recovery/
https://theaimn.com/what-really-killed-vehicle-manufacturing-in-australia/
https://theaimn.com/the-march-of-neo-liberalism/
https://theaimn.com/never-give-up-on-the-future-of-the-australian-automotive-manufacturing-industry/

 

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47 comments

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  1. Sir Scotchmistery

    Excellent overview of the situation. Unfortunately it fails to take into account that over 80% of the electorate are too damn stupid to understand the basics of non 2 party politics.

  2. Anomander

    Beautifully concise comment SSM.

  3. Sam_w

    Well written. Best of luck turning this around.

    World is upside down.
    Government promotes all the aspects of capitalism that don’t build things or employ people.
    All the stuff to extract wealth instead of generate wealth. Negative gearing, capital gains tax is half that of income tax and no limit on rental prices. Welfare to the very top in the form of risk free treasury bonds which are mostly held by overseas entities.

    Meanwhile governments everywhere do subsidize their car manufacturing industries.

    ALP needs a kick in the proverbial back side for this one.

  4. Miriam English

    Well said Andreas.

    We need to make the big parties realise this. The LNP will never understand, but we might be able to make the ALP get to grips with it. This information should be spread far and wide.

    Many think that ordinary voters in Australia are stupid, but they manifestly are not. Australians are some of the best educated people in the world. They are simply busy. Politics is seen by most people as a raft of lies and unrewarding to peel away the successive layers of untruths, obfuscations, and misleads. They are too busy paying bills and ensuring they keep their increasingly shaky jobs rather than spending time attempting to delve beneath the pervasive propaganda on TV, radio, and in newspapers. And who can blame them? It does take a lot of time and effort. Media-capture by the right-wing has been so effective it has even altered the Labor Party!

    We who are outside the mainstream media bubble are the only ones who can change this. The major parties won’t. The mainstream media won’t. The general population can’t. It’s up to us. We need to spread the reality on social media, by talking to people, and by petitioning the ALP. If we don’t then there is nobody else. If we give up then we all go down… and we capitulate without protest. We should at least make the predators work to consume us.

    Thank you, Andreas, for putting the argument so well. This should be a national conversation. Transport is central to Australia in a way that it is for no other nation on Earth. We are ruled by what has often been called “the tyranny of distance”. This needs to be something all Australians understand. We can have a local, adaptable car and truck industry, or we can be completely at the mercy of overseas manufacturers. While oil is cheap it might look like it is easier to get vehicles from overseas, however when oil prices start to really bite we will be wishing we saved the local industry. But by then it will be too late.

    Last chance.

  5. Miriam English

    I’ve sent a message + link to the above article to Four Corners and posted to facebook. I need to get back to bed. I’ll try to think of more ways to spread this tomorrow.

  6. nurses1968

    “Andreas Bimba is a mechanical engineer and former employee of Toyota Australia‘s manufacturing operations in Melbourne and a member of the Australian Greens.”
    And a fine bit of Greens electioneering goes into this article as well. as this decision was made in 2014 by Toyota on purely financial grounds.
    As the decision was made back then and implementation started efforts now would be like trying to unscramble an egg.
    What is Kim Carr to do, kidnap Toyota?
    With the decision made back then, it was in Labor and the ACTUs best interest to fight for adequate worker compensation and they have argued that for the past 2 years

    Toyota has announced today it will end production in Australia by the end of 2017, joining Ford and Holden in switching to import-only brands.

    The company said the decision was based in part on the high Australian dollar’s effect on export opportunities, along with the high cost of manufacturing and low economies of scale for Toyota and for its local supplier base.
    The company confirmed last year that it loses nearly $3000 on the cost of producing vehicles in Australia, and Mr Toyoda said today that efforts to reduce costs were not successful.

    Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten described the announcement as “an unmitigated disaster. The Australian automotive manufacturing industry has died under the Abbott government, it’s a disgrace.”

    The world’s largest car maker announced on Monday evening that it will stop building cars in Australia by the end of 2017. Some 2500 of the 4000 workers employed by Toyota locally will lose their jobs, and hundreds more positions are expected to go in the components sector and other related supplies industries.

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/labor-demands-tony-abbott-detail-jobs-plan-after-toyota-announcement-20140211-32f0f.html#ixzz48qg5gTMn

    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/kim-carr-hydrogen-fuelcell-car-may-boost-victorias-brown-coal-industry-20151112-gky10x.html

  7. nurses1968

    What is the Greens specific policy as to Toyota?
    Back in 2014 the then Greens Deputy Leader and industry spokesperson Adam Bandt MP was it seems more accepting of the inevitability of Toyotas closure and more interested in a greater Automotive Transformation Subsidy

    Six delegates joined AMWU officials at Parliament House to ask cross-bench Senators and the Greens to support Automotive Transformation Scheme funds being extended to 2021 to help parts-makers diversify into new products, encourage extra skills and minimize closures.

    The group led by National Secretary (Vehicles) Dave Smith also met senior Labor MPs to affirm that the ALP National Conference decision to re-direct the ATS funds to industry transition would be implemented if they won the upcoming federal election.

    “Our day in Canberra was well worthwhile, we were able to explain how crucial it was to our 15,000 auto members to have the ATS broadened to help supply-chain firms. Our delegates got a very good hearing,” Mr Smith said.

    “The non-government MPs we spoke to seemed to understand that many workers will need extra training and skills recognition if we are to minimize the impact of unemployment on vulnerable communities in South Australia and Victoria when the motor vehicle producers close.”

    AMWU economist Tom Skladzien hosted a busy schedule including meetings with Labor frontbenchers Tanya Plibersek, Kim Carr, Tony Burke, Penny Wong and South Australian industry advocate Nick Champion.

    Members also met Greens including Leader Richard Di Natale, Adam Bandt and Janet Rice as well as Palmer United’s Senator Dio Wang and independent Senator Jacqui Lambie.

    http://www.amwu.org.au/union_takes_ats_cause_to_canberra

  8. Shaun Newman

    nurses1968, at last some rational commentary I agree with you in every aspect.

  9. cornlegend

    Andreas Bimba
    Geez you got a decent run here in your Greens campaign.
    You said
    “Alternatively if enough of the electorate voted for the Australian Greens so that they were able to form part of our next federal government then again the Australian automotive industry could have a good chance of survival and indeed expansion but reaching the electorate effectively with this message takes time, media access that is currently denied and significant financial resources.”
    Have you ever heard of the old Eric Bogle song, If Wishes were fishes?”
    Which next Federal Government do you want to be part of, LNP or Labor, or doesn’t it matter?
    The car industry unfortunately is globalised and the wealthy car manufacturers go where the profits are no matter how mch Government funds get thrown at them
    Even your own Party seems to accept that.
    In the 15 years to 2012 Governments threw $30 billion in subsidies to the auto industry {yep billions with a B] and the jobs kept going and the Motor Industry snatched and ran
    Now that $30 billion could be diverted into some good programmes
    Here are a couple of the ALPs for less than 1 Billion which would leave $29 billion for nation building agendas
    Bill has announced already
    ” We will invest $127 million in reskilling teachers over four years, kicking off in the 2017 school year.

    We will also invest $9 million to establish a National Coding in Schools centre (NCIS) so that all teachers in Australia have the opportunity to develop their skills, and every student can have access to exciting ways to learn coding.
    hat is why Labor will launch Girls into Code – a $4.5 million grants program to support organisations that promote, encourage and inspire girls to learn

    This adds to the announcement last year that a Shorten Labor Government would guarantee TAFE funding into the future by working with Premiers and Chief Ministers on a comprehensive National Priority Plan that defines the role of TAFE and places it squarely as the public provider within the VET sector.
    That is why Labor has proposed $320 million from 2017 in funding to provide more support for students with disabilities.

    Labor will provide 25,000 teaching scholarships over five years to new and recent graduates of STEM degrees to encourage them to continue their study and become a STEM teacher.

    A Shorten Labor Government will invest an additional $100 million to support Indigenous students to succeed at school, and boost the number of Indigenous teachers.

    In addition, Labor will provide $4.8 million over the forward estimates to fund 100 scholarships per year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers.”

    And, as you grudgingly acknowledge Carr and Shorten fought hard for an improved Automotive Transformation Subsidy package and ample employee entitlements

    It seems even you are out of kilter with your own Party

  10. Andreas Bimba

    SSM another lucid comment but other countries have been able to build alternative political parties to the no real choice Conservative, Social Democrat/Labour type of revolving door two party system. I live in hope but as Miriam points out it will take effort.

    Thanks Sam and Miriam, it seems it’s all about power blocs and voting blocs if you want your industry or cause to be fairly represented by our political system and governments. Unfortunately the Conservative and Labor leadership are mostly comprised of people that drift with the prevailing breeze like autumn leaves rather than stand by well considered and worthy principles. This is not to say that they are without worthy values but I think they generally do not have the courage or strength of character to strive to implement a cause of merit that doesn’t have a power bloc or tightly organised voting bloc behind it. I don’t think Chifley or even Menzies would have let our car industry and most of the rest of our manufacturing industry to be progressively forced into bankruptcy because of the prevailing ideology of globalisation, FTA’s and neo-liberalism and fear of the very powerful vested interests that promote this ideology. Our former statesman like political leaders were also able to capture the aspirations of the electorate that then underpinned worthy policy, in other words they didn’t just passively wait for external direction, or at least not all of the time.

    There is a lot of disenchantment in the electorate and with the general drift of this country and most voters probably don’t know why this has come about or how to improve the current situation. A true multi party political system with the Greens and others providing some meaningful political choice appears to me to be an essential first step.

    The practice of the old parties of developing policy that is specifically designed to capture the swinging voter in the swinging seats has also enhanced our drift to a debased no real choice two party system but at least for this election unlike the last one, some policy is being discussed and the old parties do have a little more differentiation but in the vital area of economic policy they remain far too similar. The fundamentalist right of the Conservatives is however a more debased and poisonous choice that would implement climate change denial, unconstrained burning of fossil fuels and ultimately feudal rule by corporations and the affluent. But we should not forget that Labor still supports new coal mines, fracked gas, off shore abuse of refugees and neo-liberalism.

    Unfortunately for all those workers about to lose their jobs, no one apart from some unions are fighting for them. Who do they turn to, the Labor Party that is supposed to look after their interests but now all too often also looks after the lobbyist with the biggest stick? The car companies under the current crap industrial policy conditions (neo-liberalism) have decided to move on to better profits elsewhere but I still believe that it is possible to formulate a reasonable and sufficiently strong industry policy environment that would convince some of them or new players to continue manufacturing locally.

    Nurses1968, it looks like I will need to reply to some of your points.

    I chose to be a member of the Greens because I saw them as being the best choice that addressed the most important issues of our time.

    In regard to Toyota, I consider them to be an excellent employer that looked after its workforce while still striving for high levels of productivity and quality in an extremely competitive market. They strongly emphasised continuous improvement and have been a productivity and innovation driver in the components industry and our manufacturing industry in general, even more so than Holden and Ford. They have access to expensively acquired R&D and technological skills that will be hard for any small local manufacturer to match cost effectively. I personally would have preferred a locally owned automotive industry to have developed in this country and this was certainly possible in the post war period but under the current neo-liberal mindset this is probably now very difficult.

    To consider Toyota, Holden and Ford as leaners and even as corporate recipients of taxpayer funded welfare is to accept the lies of the neo-liberal propagandists or the ignorant. One just has to witness these factories in operation to see that all forms of non value adding expenditure is relentlessly minimised. The financial assistance provided by our state and federal governments was merely designed to tip the economic balance point towards local manufacturing being more profitable than fully importing which was always an option for a multinational car company. In the past import tariffs were used to ensure the economic tipping point was in favour of local manufacture and this had the further advantage of providing revenue to the federal government but it did add to the cost of vehicles to consumers. The drift towards narrow self interest as opposed to collective self interest (neo-liberalism), the associated tariff reductions and FTA’s and the misrepresentation of government financial assistance that led to Tony Abbott announcing that such support would in a few years be withdrawn, resulted in an impossible situation for the local manufacturers which then rightly felt they were no longer welcome. One should also realise that both Holden and Toyota had expansion plans and were in the preparatory stages of introducing new more environmentally acceptable models (in the case of Toyota a hydrogen fuel cell car) as late as six months before their closure announcements in late 2013 and early 2014 even under the poor economic conditions of the time.

    It is still not too late to unscramble this egg as the three remaining manufacturers are still making cars. Ford are probably firmly set on leaving and never returning but Holden are probably less negative and TOYOTA WILL STAY if another large manufacturer (foreign or local) continues local car assembly and a reasonable industrial policy environment can be provided. The ALP could and should do better because firstly it makes economic sense and secondly for the social benefit of providing considerable employment which our mineral resources sector will never be able to provide.

    Industries that produce goods and services that can be sold overseas or that replace imports must be given priority by governments as they provide the income generating core that sustains the wider economy. Do you think an undeveloped country can support a first world health care, education and social welfare system? Do you think that neo-liberalism will ever provide full employment and a fair go for all?

    In regard to the high Australian dollar being a factor in the decision to cease local vehicle manufacture, yes it was a factor amongst many but not decisively so, as the dollar rises and falls with commodity prices and now the dollar isn’t that high. The local manufacturers also import a higher percentage of the vehicles components if the dollar is high.

    The comment that Toyota loses $3,000 per vehicle and that costs could not be cut further is valid but requires clarification. The $3,000 figure is probably a little overstated but it is about 10% of the total vehicle production cost and this represents the cost differential for Toyota to make a Camry/Aurion in Australia in comparison to the Toyota plant in Thailand. This gets back to my previous comment about economic tipping points. Australia because of its higher labour and government imposed regulatory costs is a little more expensive at producing cars than low labour cost and/or subsidised competitors in Asia and Europe. Toyota Australia’s labour productivity is actually very high and the utilisation of automation and technology is at optimum levels. Plant upgrades are also performed on a regular basis. Local production costs have indeed been cut to the bone but future upgrades would have produced further productivity gains. The Toyota plant has a capacity of 150,000 units per annum with the bulk being exported to the Middle East. The Toyota Altona plant is similar in size to the Toyota Thailand plant so the economy of scale argument used against local manufacturing is unsound, provided an export policy is in place.

    To ensure economic equivalence with imports a moderate tariff of 15% or an equivalent level of government support however remains unavoidable. For a $10 billion p.a. turnover local automotive industry with a total capacity of 350,000 units p.a., government support of approximately $1 to $1.5 billion p.a. would be required assuming no tariff protection. Note also that the industry, its employees and those that gain work in the wider community such as storekeepers, teachers, construction workers and so on, pay considerably more tax than this subsidy.

    One of the biggest lies of neo-liberalism is that we can no longer afford such industry subsidies. Well other countries can and at much higher levels than Australia, why because of the net economic and technology benefit. Japan’s vehicle production costs are higher than Australia’s but they have a very closed market and a wide range of government supports. Japan could never afford to endanger their highly successful manufacturing and associated services industry sector which is the core of their economy with the reckless ideology of neo-liberalism that we are still intent on doing.

    The Modern Monetary Theory economists have also proven that it is economically beneficial (as well as socially beneficial) for the federal government to consistently run budget deficits. This economic stimulus along with a jobs guarantee scheme could eventually provide meaningful work for all of Australia’s unemployed and underemployed. A regular government deficit of 5% of GDP is about $80 billion p.a. which is more than double the current budget deficit. This stimulus in combination with reducing the availability of very costly tax deductions for the most wealthy and reducing chronic tax evasion means that ample funding capacity is available if and when our nation has competent governments in power.

    Cornlegend, you need to consider how and where all of Australia’s people are to find meaningful work. Do you really care about all those people who are just about to become unemployed in a terrible job market? Following the current ALP narrative just means more of the same, some good, but mostly bad. We can do better.

    Anomander, thanks for the link.

  11. jimhaz

    I do not like permanent subsidies. Temporary subsidies are fine for developing industries and new technologies.

    Much prefer import tariffs – easier to change according to current conditions. Every so often I’d fiddle with the tariffs to force technological and systems progress in the car industry.

    I’d purposefully and progressively make cars more expensive in the same way they are making cigs more expensive. Its for our own long term good as it would reduce greenhouse gases and promote a demand and expectation for improved public or shared transport. It would also mean less disposable income could be put into more pronounced wealth and job killer that is housing inflation.

    As for the free trade agreements. I would simply ignore them including any legal ramifications. I do not agree to signing away the right to Australian sovereignty.

  12. Andreas Bimba

    Jimhaz, one of the advantages of the subsidies is it helps improve the competitiveness of exports which is essential to keep factories running at capacity but I also prefer the tariff approach for its simplicity and as a government revenue source. The car is indeed a resource hungry form of transport but having them powered by renewable fuel sources will be half the battle won.

  13. diannaart

    I really don’t get why Australia no longer manufactures much of anything, anymore.

    Factories empty which could be re-jigged for production of the burgeoning and ever inventive new technology.

    We have had 30 years of political manipulation by both LNP and Labor scuttling education, research, innovation (yes, Mr Turnbull), science, our tech colleges and now unaffordable and often useless tertiary degrees – we do not need any more lawyers or accountants, FFS.

    We need people educated to create, invent, problem solve. People who can use what remains useful and build from that.

    Or we can just serve lattes…

  14. Miriam English

    diannaart, that amazes me too.

    Why would successive governments commit to this kind of slow suicide? What the hell do they think we will do once all value-added industry is gone from our shores? Do they think only the mercantile bankers, or hedge-fund managers, or those who’ve inherited vast wealth are worthy. The rest only deserve to serve the rich… or should just die? In fact, in my more worried moments I sometimes wonder if the ongoing attempt to destroy our public health system is actually a thinly disguised attempt to kill off the poor. Surely not. Even the crazy neo-liberals wouldn’t be that stupid… would they?

    What kind of awful trap have we all been sleepwalking into?

  15. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Miriam English @6.38pm,

    my thoughts exactly. How could the neolibs have such a callous attitude? And then it dawns on me, they don’t care about us even with a fleeting flinch of kindness.

    This society has been sleepwalking into allowing this callous mindset to become natural to those who have it. This society, and I blame myself for this too, has been sleepwalking into staying ignorant or complacent to the myriad ways that the institutionalised and corporate thieves have been able to get away with robbing us blind and undermining our standard of living.

  16. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hear, hear Andreas Bimba.

    Hear, hear also @2.53pm especially with the paragraph:

    “It is still not too late to unscramble this egg as the three remaining manufacturers are still making cars. Ford are probably firmly set on leaving and never returning but Holden are probably less negative and TOYOTA WILL STAY if another large manufacturer (foreign or local) continues local car assembly and a reasonable industrial policy environment can be provided. The ALP could and should do better because firstly it makes economic sense and secondly for the social benefit of providing considerable employment which our mineral resources sector will never be able to provide.”

    If it is not too late to reverse this unacceptable threat of unemployment and loss of substantial manufacturing and high tech enterprises, we should find ways to make the car industry stay especially in its new image of environmentally friendly electric cars coexisting with public transport and bike riding.

    Andreas is making a strong case to save an important industry, so take the politics out of it and help make it happen. If Labor and its necessary allies of the Greens, Progressive Micro Parties and Independents provide the leadership, the LNP won’t be able to let it happen and it will win the hearts and minds of the grateful public.

  17. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    diannaart @5.48pm,

    you hit the target like usual. I don’t get why Labor would have done anything against it unless reliance on the oil component was a driving reason for John Button to have his input in 2005. Anything that will take power away from Saudi Arabia’s monopoly on oil production will suit me very well.

    I must confess I don’t have a natural empathy for wanting to keep cars on the road, if it means more roads and air pollution. But then I take heed of the alternative clean energy cars that are necessary for groups within our society on account of disability, work requirements, regional living.

    I applaud Andreas for mounting a strong argument for why keeping the big car manufacturing employers ON Australian soil because they provide the necessary employment and resources to mould new industries and better ways of managing the diverse socio-economic expectations.

  18. diannaart

    Thanks Andreas for your important article.

    After WW2, factories that had been churning out war products changed their output (they also kicked out the women who had been running everything – but that’s another issue, for now) these factories diversified into other products – hardly rocket surgery, but the 1950’s was a buzzing hive of production, new technology and design.

    OK, this isn’t post-war – circumstances have changed, companies are manufacturing in countries which don’t have minimum wage standards hence making competition in the same products difficult. So why not move into other forms of production – this ain’t rocket science either!

    Infuriates me that we do have within our grasp the solution to so many issues facing us and yet we continue to do F/A.

    The 1950’s led one man to envisage and set in motion the research and science and land a space craft, complete with live humans on the moon under less than a decade later.

    There is no excuse for Australia turn into another Detroit. We cannot let this global oligarchy continue to the peril of us all, even the idiots making out like thieves at present, without thought for any future.

  19. Andreas Bimba

    By all means we should use our best scientists and engineers to develop new and better things and services and help solve the world’s problems and create new industries. I also believe we can’t afford to abandon big existing markets like automotive, including trucks, trams and trains, white goods and energy production/materials processing for example.

  20. diannaart

    Not saying “abandon automotive” or other existing markets why continue based around old and current technology? IS what I AM saying.

    We need a competitive edge – not what the big corporations are still doing in 3rd world, we can leap over those dinosaurs.

    Instead of trying to find negatives in what I am saying, work WITH me, think about future tech – we don’t need big business, just a lot of small and medium businesses – of course that will require investment into education and health – a nation cannot be innovative if unhoused, poorly fed and hopeless (MR effing TURNBULL).

    Reuse, Recycle, Reanimate and Reinvent.

  21. Andreas Bimba

    Two relevant quotes from the attached article:

    “However Holden insiders say as little as another $80 million a year would have seen the car-maker stay.”

    “Labor’s former industry minister, Kim Carr is incredulous at Canberra’s apparent indifference. He says when he was minister six months ago, Toyota was very keen to invest in new models.”

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/toyota-closure-explanation-is-needed-on-cold-decisions-that-preceded-car-industrys-demise-20140211-32f29.html

  22. diannaart

    OK Andreas

    Keep on with revitalising the automotive industry.

    Mustn’t think too far into the future. Right? I mean if Britain is producing new cars, so can we – no argument there.

    Are the British cars electric, hybrids or combustion?

  23. diannaart

    Investment into long storage batteries?

  24. Andreas Bimba

    Thanks dianneaart, the video about the British car industry just showed the factory where Jaguars and Range Rovers are made and they also make hybrids there. Nissan, Mini, Toyota and Honda and many small companies also manufacture in the UK and hybrids, electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars are or will shortly be made there in large volumes. The UK Conservatives actually support introduction of these less environmentally damaging cars in a big way unlike our dinosaur federal government which is why I posted that comment.

    Mustn’t think too far into the future. Right? Do I detect hostility? I don’t care about that, debate is always good and the more perspectives the better. Cars will still be a substantial part of the world’s industrial future even with rapid CO2 reduction targets which I support. I am a member of 350.org and admire Professor James Hansen and Bill McKibben. I also strongly support other areas of advanced manufacturing as well as non engineering things like education, health care, housing, social services, public transport, good urban design, a fair go for all, a full employment policy and so forth.

  25. diannaart

    Andreas

    I am hungry to see more and hear more from people thinking beyond the bleeding obvious. I know we have the foundation of some very exciting technology that will/could/must see us through the global crazy we are experiencing right now.

    I did not click on your link – too many just post links without any qualifying comments or quotes.

    Well, I am very pleased that you have responded so kindly to my bristling and apologise if you were offended. We cannot go back to the horse&cart – auto-mobiles will remain very much a part of our future, provided we can adapt.

    Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    Regards

    D

  26. Miriam English

    Given our government’s unwelcoming, backward-looking, anti-technology, anti-science attitude it’s not surprising that the announcement of the Tesla 3 doesn’t even mention Australia. We fall further and further behind. From being a country that punched above its weight in science and technology, to becoming the racist trailer-trash of the world, we are being sold out by our bottom-feeding, incompetent, traitorous government(s).

    Here is the announcement of the Tesla Model 3:

    I must admit I find the glossy, professional, stage-managed presentation a little embarrassing, and reminiscent of the kind of bullshit shows Apple puts on, but I find it refreshing that Elon Musk is still just an awkward geek who is interested primarily in fixing the world.

  27. Miriam English

    …and that’s he’s introduced by the lead engineer instead of a film star. 🙂
    (Engineers are the best people in the world.)

  28. diannaart

    Salt of the earth, Miriam. My favourite professor at uni was a construction engineer.

  29. Andreas Bimba

    Thanks for the kind words regarding engineers. They along with the scientists can be forces for good or bad hence the importance of competent and virtuous political oversight. As for adding value to otherwise underutilised resources and solving many of the world’s challenges they along with the wider community will be vital.

    The existing business world and conservative people of good will should if at all possible also participate in implementing the worthy policy goals of the Greens movement, not just progressives. Only by finding common ground between reasonable people on both sides of politics are we likely to rapidly and substantially improve our current predicament.

    I have been informed that my previously posted comment:
    “For a $10 billion p.a. turnover local automotive industry with a total capacity of 350,000 units p.a.”
    is not quite accurate. I will need to update this when I find better data.

    Adam Bandt making it happen, as published in the Guardian:

    http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/may/20/election-2016-greens-plan-to-spend-5bn-over-four-years-on-research-and-innovation

  30. diannaart

    Thank you for link, Andreas.

    Greens making sense, ie, stop funding old tech and start investing in new, sustainable technology and mitigating the damage to CSIRO.

    What are Labor doing? – well, they’re putting greater emphasis on teachers of Science, Tech, Engineering and Maths – have yet to hear of plan to repair LNP damage to CSIRO.

  31. Andreas Bimba

    Highly relevant to the forced exit of Australia’s car assembly industry is the issue of free trade agreements and also the wishes of the Institute of Public Affairs, the think tank for the neo-conservative hard right in Australian business and politics. In the link below have a look at item 30 of the IPA’s publication “BE LIKE GOUGH: 75 RADICAL IDEAS TO TRANSFORM AUSTRALIA” and note one of the authors James Paterson who recently won the Coalition’s top spot for the Victorian Senate ticket. All of us should be aware of all 75 of the appalling goals of the IPA.

    http://ipa.org.au/library/publication/1345447840_document_be_like_gough.pdf

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/ipas-james-paterson-wins-coalitions-top-spot-for-victorian-senate-ticket-20160306-gnby5g.html

    The link below which is to a 21 May 2016 article by Gina McColl and appeared in The Age newspaper, reveals one of the reasons we now have ChAFTA, the China Australia Free Trade Agreement and the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It’s not a clean story but don’t ever be fooled that any of the old major Australian political parties have your best interests at the top of their agenda. This looks like corruption to me and it’s on a massive scale. If not in law then the laws have been corruptly drafted:

    http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2016/chinese-interests-play-an-increasing-role-in-australian-and-political-donations-20160517-goxl8b

    On Monday 23 May 2016, the ABC Four Corners program broadcast ‘Money and Influence’ which covers the shadowy world of political donations. This program can be viewed in the link below:

    http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2016/05/23/4465448.htm

    While we are on the subject here are a few more relevant articles:

    http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/the-many-ways-political-donations-buy-access-in-victoria-20160518-goxnu4

    http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/south-of-the-border-arthur-sinodinos-and-colleagues-enjoy-fundraising-freeforall-20160407-go0q3j.html

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/24/politicians-cant-be-trusted-to-reform-political-donations

  32. Alf Schulz

    I don’t want to say something stupid but there was a certain party that introduced the “BUTTON PLAN. This was to gradually reduce the import tarriffs to all vehicles coming into Australia to the current level, will let you all work out when this happened and what it done to the Australian industry.

  33. Miriam English

    If I remember rightly, Senator Button also introduced massive student fees and HECS to rationalise students going into deep debt. The right-wing of the Labor Party is responsible for a lot of bad things.

  34. Andreas Bimba

    Alf and Miriam, the Button plan actually wasn’t all that bad and John Button is well regarded in the industry as at the time the number of car manufacturing companies located here and models made was excessive. Some models had tiny production volumes. Build quality was generally quite a bit worse than now as well. Some consolidation was necessary. The stupid thing is that the current Toyota Altona plant is just about optimum right now apart from needing to transition to renewable fuel or electric car production.

    The industry was set up to fail by John Howard when the Thailand Australia FTA was signed and all subsequent governments continued down the same path until Abbott and Hockey delivered the IPA’s final blow.

    But the industry is still alive and will be for a few more months. Will common sense return following the election??

    I recently looked at some GDP figures and was surprised how high Australia was in the rankings, we’re in the same range as Canada, Spain, South Korea and Russia and we’re not that much smaller than India. We as a nation are being ruled by small thinking, vision less and self serving media personalities.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29

  35. Miriam English

    Andreas, that’s the weird thing, isn’t it. We are an extremely wealthy nation. Even now after right-wing fools have wrecked our economy and have begun tearing apart our society we are still more wealthy than we were some decades back, yet after being told over and over again by the propagandists that we can’t afford education, health, a vehicle industry, scientific research institutions, and so on it becomes ingrained and very difficult to shake. In actual fact, we are not only able to afford these things, they are exactly the things that give us a good standard of living.

    Sure, primary resources have been a very big part of our wealth in the past, but those never last forever, so we always needed to plan for a future where people are our greatest resource. It can be done. Look at Japan. What resources do they have? Until the coordinated attack by Western billionaires on the Asian tiger economies Japan was one of the wealthiest countries in the world and for a long time have had one of the highest standards of living of any country on the planet. Their greatest resource? Human minds — the most complex and flexible things in the known universe.

    We are on our way to becoming a third-world nation. I like to describe USA as the richest third-world nation on Earth. They have third-world levels of education, health, poverty, manufacturing, racism, bribery, and wealth disparity. Under the failed policies of right-wing, corrupt, trickle-down economics, with austerity for the poor, and overindulgence and excess for the rich, we’re headed in the same direction. We need to change course before it’s too late.

  36. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I thoroughly agree with Miriam’s words of warning and motivation.

  37. Athena

    “What are Labor doing? – well, they’re putting greater emphasis on teachers of Science, Tech, Engineering and Maths – have yet to hear of plan to repair LNP damage to CSIRO.”

    I agree with diannaart. what we’re mainly hearing from the ALP is the investment in schools. Whilst good early education is extremely important, it will be some years before any benefits are reaped from that investment.

    Australian scientists have been doing excellent work for years. Unfortunately the public seldom get to hear about the achievements, of which we can be very proud. We need new technologies and developments to replace those industries we’ve lost. We need to restore funding to organisations such as CSIRO and to other areas of science. Our future depends upon it. Instead, we’re losing scientists to overseas because they can’t get work here.

  38. Athena

    “We are on our way to becoming a third-world nation. I like to describe USA as the richest third-world nation on Earth. They have third-world levels of education, health, poverty, manufacturing, racism, bribery, and wealth disparity. Under the failed policies of right-wing, corrupt, trickle-down economics, with austerity for the poor, and overindulgence and excess for the rich, we’re headed in the same direction. We need to change course before it’s too late.”

    Totally agree, Miriam. It really annoys me that Australians are all too eager to put the USA on a pedestal and seek to emulate it as much as possible. Their country is a mess thanks to the greedy, warmongering 1% and politicians devoid of morality and half decent ethics.

  39. Andreas Bimba

    Totally agree Miriam and Athena.

  40. diannaart

    The IPA remains too influential – particularly if the LNP are in power – have we not watched as the IPA’s wish-list has been steadily ticked since 2013?

    Of course, the IPA, while it has been in Australia since early in last century, remains firmly entangled with USA star-chambers of similar rigid thinking.

    Need more public awareness, that there really is a conspiracy and they all wear suits.

  41. jimhaz

    I wonder if our rich like a service economy because of its investment flexibility. Where a manufacturing business becomes non-competitive they are often large costs in shutting down. Costs which are not high for service industries. It just means they can do their investment shifting to maximise profits much easier.

  42. Andreas Bimba

    diannaart, the way the IPA operates (effectively dictating a broad policy agenda for a government) as well as the large political donations provided by big business and even foreign governments for a specific governmental outcome looks like a criminal conspiracy to me.

    jimhaz, crony capitalism is where the big profits are now. Here the crony capitalists persuade or pay their favourite political party or government for legislation that provides a lucrative business opportunity or monopoly rights. For example our superannuation system that currently has about $2,000 billion funds under management, compulsorily takes 9.5 % from peoples wages and this is given to the superannuation funds to manage. The total in fees taken by fund managers is now about $23.5 billion p.a. Given the meagre rates of return for most funds is this level of fees reasonable for what is basically just money shifting? When you also consider the $30 billion p.a. of taxation revenue forgone due to the concessions on super contributions and when you compare this with the current cost of the aged pension of $44 billion p.a. this starts to look a lot like a scam that disproportionately benefits the wealthy at the expense of the majority.

    Another example is the property sector where negative gearing and lower tax rates for capital gains, are used to subsidise the purchase of investment properties and, along with foreign investment, underpin an upward spiral in property prices. This also helps the banks who then earn interest on ever bigger loan portfolios. The total value of Australia’s investment housing loans is now about $550 billion and owner occupied housing loans is about $1,000 billion. Assuming these loans have an average interest rate of 5.35%, the interest received by the banks and other lenders is about $83 billion p.a. What would this figure be if we didn’t have the great increase in property values of the last two decades? Maybe half of $83 billion which represents a windfall of over $40 billion p.a. to the banks due to a few government tax incentives.

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/search-for-the-biggest-fat-cat-of-the-australian-super-fund-industry-20151112-gkxsi7.html

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-29/tax-concessions-for-super-costing-more-than-gst-exemptions/7124994

    Home

  43. Andreas Bimba

    To anyone that may think, well we can’t put in a tariff of 15% on new vehicle imports because of all of the free trade agreements or the people who buy cars will hate it, well in fact it can be done. Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals just did it for the steel industry only they didn’t call them tariffs but import duties. The Anti-Dumping Commission was used to present the case for import duties. The Anti-Dumping Commission was established by the previous Labor government primarily during Julia Gillard’s term of office, following concerted pressure from the union movement, some local producers/manufacturers and independents like Senators John Madigan and Nick Xenophon as well as the Greens.

    The article below indicates that the reasoning for imposing the import duty on a variety of steel categories from China was based on evidence of dumping by the Chinese steel industry that is heavily subsidised by the Chinese government.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-23/import-duties-imposed-on-cheap-chinese-steel/7352666

    Steel is however imported into Australia from many other countries, all of which have provided government assistance during the establishment or modernisation phases of these industries and also on an ongoing basis. This is all a bit like plugging the holes in a leaky boat, unfortunately it is likely that eventually the boat will fill and sink and this is probably what the hard right, free trade ‘libertarianists’ that are becoming more prevalent in the two conservative parties, and that fought hard against the establishment of the Anti-Dumping Commission, are ultimately aiming for.

    An across the board moderate steel import tariff of 15%, that applied to all countries (with the possible exception of NZ due to our very similar wage costs and industry support levels) and only for those steel categories that are manufactured in Australia, would be more sensible and would give the steel industry confidence to invest as they would then have a fighting chance to compete. The Anti-Dumping Commission would still be necessary to apply temporary import duties in cases of dumping.

    The totally free trade fundamentalists will argue that this will add to costs for consumers and down stream manufacturers, many of whom export, well yes this is true but do we want to have no steel industry, which is the ultimate end point under current policy conditions. It again appears obvious to me that the best answer is some point of compromise between impenetrable tariff walls such as we had for much of the post war period and no trade protection which is the aim of the hard right, free trade fundamentalists that are primarily working under the direction of the mining and bulk agricultural export corporations.

    Excessive trade protection generally leads to inefficiency and stagnation while totally free trade generally leads to extinction for relatively high wage and small to medium market size nations like Australia. Strategic (defence implications) and relatively large industries like steel making and car manufacturing as well as other smaller sectors like white goods should be retained and if the WTO trade guidelines need to be amended so be it. Highly innovative and constantly improving knowledge intensive businesses can still compete without trade protection and deserve much more well considered support from our governments.

    http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Bills_Legislation/Bills_Search_Results/Result?bId=r4951

    https://wa.awu.net.au/news/awu-welcomes-historic-launch-australian-anti-dumping-commission

    https://theconversation.com/anti-dumping-commission-no-cause-to-be-carried-away-11214

    http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/tindo-wins-push-for-probe-into-dumping-of-cheap-chinese-solar-panels-47159

    http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/politics/price-of-tinned-italian-tomatoes-will-rise-after-antidumping-commissions-ruling/story-fnkerdda-1226887886092

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