Not many of us would sit and ponder just how Australia, until the end of the Nineteenth Century a basically agricultural-cattle-sheep farming nation, became part of Western manufacturing processes that enabled the West to become such a dominant political and industrial culture; so much so that all other cultures are still measured against our achievements.
Not many of us would even consider what it is that allows nations, particularly the United States, to develop such sophisticated technology that other nations, such as Russia and China, through lack of financial incentive and government restrictions on private ownership, must steal Western innovations rather than develop their own.
Not many of us would realize that what we have all come to accept, and to now expect, from our own nation – such as medical care and a standard of living so high that even our so-called poor, when compared to other cultures, such as some African nations, can be considered to be wealthy in comparison – has been due to the efforts of preceding generations of Australians that invested their money and built up a manufacturing base that for the size of our then population was one of the most productive in the developed world.
During World War One it was realized that if this country was to survive the tyranny of distance from those markets we were then dependant on for goods used in this country we did not make ourselves, we would need – and through necessity brought about due to the war – to produce our own products. One of the biggest steps taken during that war was the steel-making enterprise of BHP at Newcastle, New South Wales, which proceeded to produce nearly all the steel products such as railway lines, sheet metal for fabrication of ships, etc. that until then had to be imported from British steel mills.
With the upsurge in manufacturing our own requirements, and becoming less reliant on distant markets for the same products, our standard of living rose (please note: it is not the author’s intent to dwell on how living standards rose which was due to a number of factors coming into play as this would require quite a lengthy discourse, but only to impress the thought that living standards overall generally rose due to the opportunities made available by having a manufacturing base) over the decades to the 1960s which was a time of full employment and availability of nearly everything that was manufactured within the West, including much being made here]. Products such as air-conditioners, refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, motor vehicles, radios, television sets, and a multitude of home appliances, and these items were made to such high standards that many products made in the 1960s still function today. How long does the average TV or microwave oven last now?
During the 1970s two things occurred that has had far reaching consequences for our future as a productive nation and that of own standard of living and for the future of our children. One of those things was that minerals began to be discovered and exported, and the other was that government began to dismantle trade protection barriers and adopt ‘free trade’ agreements with other developing nations.
The gradual reduction of trade barriers which were originally put in place by government to protect our manufacturing base from cheap, and generally at the time inferior imports, such as those products from Japan, began to affect some companies which had been previously protected by the benefits of a closed market. As some companies began to adjust to the challenges that international trade posed with the importing of cheap products, they were also forced to downsize and lay off employees. During the mid-1970s welfare, as we now know it, was put in place due to the effects of manufacturing companies going bust and coal mines closing due to the low prices being paid for underground coal and the high costs in extracting it, which closed many underground mines in New South Wales. Some families are now into a third generation that has never worked and probably never will. The social implications of this ‘sit down money’ as implemented by the Whitlam government is far reaching, and which really requires an essay to be written about the problems it has generated, but this is not the author’s intent here. While underground mining began to become more expensive during the early to mid-1960s, some mines managed to withstand the economic pressures into the early 1980s and even into the new century, but the biggest impact on unemployment by far, was the lowering of trade protection barriers which has had a domino effect on all of our manufacturing.
It has been estimated that in the period from 1966 – 1995, 120,000 manufacturing jobs were lost due to companies becoming bankrupt, moving overseas or just winding up the business because it was uneconomical to continue. In 1966, 1.23 million people were employed in manufacturing which fell to 1.12 million by 1995. In a period of around three decades 40,000 people lost their jobs every ten years in a nation that in 1966 barely topped the ten million mark! By any measure of common sense the government at the time should have recognized the catastrophe of unemployment that their own policies were producing and fixed the problem. Instead the government chose to do nothing! Free trade and trade agreements became the mantra of the day and bugger the unemployed and loss of our own manufacturing base!
And that mentality has managed to trickle down to our current political class without revision or even hope of revision.
Australia managed to weather the fiscal storm of 2008 solely because we had a mining sector that virtually pulled us out of an economic mess even though the then Rudd government tried so very hard to push us into it with its economic madness of stimulus spending. But the mining sector has more boom and bust cycles than the financial sector and cannot be relied upon to keep our economy strong. Only a solid manufacturing base which employs millions, and can operate in a closed market, can guarantee a strong economy!
Total employment in 1966 was 4.8 million jobs, with 1.23 million being employed in manufacturing, which was around 25% of the working population who worked in positions that produced those items we now have to import. In 1995, total employment was 8.1 million jobs with 1.12 million being in manufacturing, which is a little over 12% of the workforce. So in a little under three decades manufacturing had effectively halved in its employment rate. Today those who work in manufacturing jobs are an endangered species that are constantly aware that their occupational position in this country is under constant threat. There is no job security for these people and we have become reliant on Communist countries, such as China, to import most of what we use, including light bulbs. Does anyone realize that this nation does not even make its own light bulbs anymore?
It should be of concern to those individuals who know their history that being reliant upon other nations, particularly in time of war, for our basic consumables places our nation in a very precarious position, especially when our armed forces start to run out of ordinance that we are also reliant on from other nations for. The situation this country now finds itself in is nothing short of Alice in Wonderland thinking that has either been created by those with a globalist agenda who don’t care if our nation collapses economically or by some kind of collective insanity that has caused those who have control over our daily lives to forgo their own common sense when legislating those policies into existence that even a four year old child would reject as unworkable and dangerous for our own existence as a sovereign nation.
Whichever reason you the reader may conclude is that which has caused this crisis of economic malaise to cast its shadow over our nation, it surely must be appreciated that we cannot continue on this path if we are to survive the next 100 years as a sovereign nation that should not be reliant on any other nation for its own survival.