The Labor Party has suddenly become opportunistically very supportive of the car industry.
Why not? Perhaps the South Australian state election, and certainly some South Australian and Victorian federal seats, will turn on it.
But this is the party that under Gough Whitlam slashed tariffs by 17% that set off the turn to globalisation in Australia which led inevitably to this outcome.
They know, as everyone who thinks about it knows, that the car industry in Australia was doomed. Even in countries at the heart of the modern car industry it is in decline, with car manufacturing in Japan declining by around 23% in the last five years.
And what is the magic of making cars or anything else here? It might have escaped the neo-protectionists, but at the same time as Australia has been shedding manufacturing jobs it has been climbing the ranks of the richest countries.
You don’t get rich by aping the tactics of low wage, low education economies. You get rich by moving into areas where need is great and supply is limited.
So here are some questions for Labor.
- Which program would you rob to put money into the car industry? Gonski? The NDIS? Aged pensions? Unemployment benefits? Be honest. Which Australians are going to be worse off if we follow your advice? Who do you want to pay for your largesse?
- Which industries would benefit from cheaper automobiles? Why do you want to load these industries up with a cost to save an industry in terminal decline?
- If manufacturing in this country is so important, why did you impose the highest carbon tax in the world on Australian industry knowing that it would kill it off and send it overseas?
- If the car industry is so important why did you put an impost on it before the last election by changing FBT eligibility in a way that did maximum damage to domestic car manufacturers?
- If money is so plentiful, why did you impose the changes to FBT, amongst other savings in the last budget?
- As wages represent somewhere around 16% of the cost of manufacturing a car, why did you make wages more expensive and less flexible by introducing the Fair Work Act?
- What is your vision for Australia? Is it one that involves Australians earning high incomes and standards of living working in the industries of the future? Or do you want to keep us trapped in the past so long as you earn a comfortable living occupying the government benches?