Holden Quits On Australia

Hits To The Id

I don’t know how the average Aussie rev head deals with this. Not only has Ford pulled up stumps on manufacturing in Australia, but today we find that General Motors is going to stop manufacturing automobiles in Australia. The first thing that popped into my mind was how will the standard white Aussie bloke deal with this blow to his masculinity? Personally, I don’t really care if cars are made here or not. If not, then there’s a personal argument in favour of cutting all the damn tariffs and having cheaper cars in Australia – much as they do in New Zealand. Yet, I think o all that testosterone and petrol-fumed love of things like V8 Supercar and utes and Mount Panorama and Peter Brock and Dick Johnson and Mark Skaife and Craig Lowndes and all that macho posturing, and all of that stuff (frankly, stuff that I find a bit parochial and tinged with Xenophobia) and how the Aussie male self-image is going to handle Holden and Ford selling what are essentially ‘Yank Tanks”.

Jut how will they cope? For once I feel sorry for them. This can’t be fun. It’s a betrayal of the cultural psyche. I’m sort of interested in where they will turn to bolster their cultural faith. Or will they continue to cheer the badges? How will this affect the self-image of the standard rev head? Of course this is all minor in comparison to what it means to the economy.

Scanning the headlines, Peter Hartcher as usual has some sanguine truth up and running.

One of the few things that Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott used to agree on was that, if you wanted a prosperous modern economy, you had to have a car industry.

This was news to Switzerland. And Singapore. And Norway. And Denmark. None of these has any car manufacturing, yet all are among the top 10 richest countries in income per person.

Today, the political parties are consumed by furious recriminations over who killed Holden. This is entertaining but irrelevant.

A car industry is neither necessary nor sufficient for national prosperity. So what is necessary? The task of leading debate and setting policy falls to the treasurer and the prime minister.

Rather than relying on Holden, Australia’s economic future depends on Hockey. Is he up to it? We are about to find out.

If you thought that was brutal, try this one from Elizabeth Knight:

GM is teaching Australia a very clear lesson: they are closing up shop because it is in their commercial interests. Our future lies in innovation – not propping up an industry that serves no purpose other than an antiquated sovereign status symbol.

The future of Australian manufacturing has been written off too quickly. Productivity in many areas has been progressing at an improving clip. And while recent studies from the Grattan Institute show that manufacturing’s share of the economy has been shrinking it has also been moving up the technology scale.

But more importantly, if the tax and regulatory frameworks that foster innovation were developed, the natural commercial advantages that we possess as a highly educated society could be capitalised.

Maybe if the focus was shifted to the opportunities squandered by ignoring innovation, rather than the sometimes dubious calculations of the multiplier effect on the economy of building assembly line cars, Australia could get an edge on all those other OECD countries that also prop up ailing car manufacturers.

It wont be popular, but it hits the nail on the head. The future form of the NBN is a much bigger issue than whether we keep this dinosaur industry which isn’t even selling to Australians. Need we say more?

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