Friday Reflection: Allowing industries to disappear

Theo R. reflects on why Australia was a much better country in 1966.

Vintage Australian Holden EK special series car produced in Australia in the early 1960's

I fully agree with recent comments made by YourLifeChoices columnist Peter Leith on our disappearing industries, and the short-sightedness of past governments in allowing them to go.

I have lived in Australia for well over 50 years. When I first came here in 1966 it was, in some ways, a better country. There were many manufacturing industries and jobs. With regret, I have seen these industries and jobs disappear. To some extent it was ‘out of control’ unions that hastened the demise of these industries, by excessive demands that sent many businesses to the wall. Union leaders felt they had to provide continuous gains for their members, even if it would send some businesses broke, or make them subject to takeovers, as happened to one I was in. The unions were also trying to usurp the function of government or blackmail it. (Then, fortunately, the Hawke years came).

On the other hand, governments pursued ‘ivory castle’ economic policies based on untested economic theories. How were we expected to compete with people who are happy to walk, use public transport, or a bicycle, as their main means of transport, and accept living in ant colony-like, unbelievably cramped, quarters. We should not become so reliant on other countries, with radically different political systems, for our essential goods, and for purchasing our exports. We are already, not very subtly, being blackmailed to influence government policies.

We must be self-sufficient, if we are to be truly independent to do what is best for us. It verges on treachery that the port of Darwin was leased to a foreign power (or to some ‘corporation’ that takes its orders from it). We have fed and strengthened those that would like to subjugate us economically, if nothing else! It is better to accept a more modest lifestyle, than to lose our independence.

In this country, we have allowed unbridled capitalism and the pursuit of wealth to run rampant, to the ultimate detriment of the majority of the population. It is untenable that some people, such as (but certainly not only) the CEOs of big banks, who have done such damage to their own clients and society in general, should be paid salaries and bonuses that are equal to the wages of hundreds of their employees, while they wreck the lives of others. The pie is a certain size, and there is enough for all to live comfortably, as long as individuals or small groups do not take such a large part that it means poverty for many others.

Such inequality in the distribution of wealth in a country, leads to people losing faith in the so called ‘democratic system’. Disenchantment and the breakdown of society follow, as well as more criminality, as those without hope will do anything to try to get somewhere in their lives. The political scene changes and allows ‘demagogues’ to exploit the discontent. We have seen this in modern history (e.g. World War Two), but are also seeing it again today in America and other places. It makes the world more dangerous and unpredictable.

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    25th Sep 2020
    could not agree more - a simpler and safer life style - oh! and we had the great Bob Menzies as PM from 1949 to 1966 - I came around in 1951
    Horace Cope
    25th Sep 2020
    And in 1966 I was in the middle of my 2 year National Service, conscription that caused the death of 521 National Servicemen and left 3000 more wounded. Life in 1966 was not a bed of roses for some.
    25th Sep 2020
    A pedantic fact check Horace, but I am sure you did not mean to mislead just unfortunate wording. There were 521 killed in Vietnam of which 202 were nashos, and 1279 nashos were wounded but not all were battle causalities. Full stats are at:
    25th Sep 2020
    Arriving in 1972, still a great place to live, right in the heart of Sydney. Walked to work, walked to the shops, half day closing on Saturdays, nothing open on Sundays. It was great. The weekends were for relaxing, travelling etc., and everyone spoke English clearly.
    25th Sep 2020
    Cannot believe Theo R is blaming unions for this mess & seems he expects the hard workers should live in poverty for stuff all wages no doubt!
    25th Sep 2020
    It's amazing that a lot of people do not know about the Lima Agreement that Gough Whitlam's Gont. signed in 1975 where we agreed to send 30%of our manufacturing offshore to poorer countries to pull them out of poverty by buying their products back from them, this was after Whitlam had dropped tariffs by 25% without consulting anyone. We may have been able to weather losing 30% of our manufacturing, along with the thousands of jobs that went with it but because of greed & everyone jumping on the band wagon it has blown out to 98%. Then Hawke & Keating finished us off by further lowering tariffs dramatically. Yes it's true as stated that the unions did their part in driving wages up & people began looking more towards white collar jobs instead of blue, we could not compete. Along with a high Welfare bill & a small domestic market for what we did produce, it was all down hill from there
    25th Sep 2020
    The biggest favour Hawke and Keating did to the Australian economy is floating our exchange rate. This has allowed us to weather every economic downturn. In 2007 when mining jobs started to disappear the A$ dropped resulting in an increase in tourist numbers where those jobs lost in mining were absorbed. Globalization has its advantages and disadvantages. It did pull many in the developing world out of poverty and provided us with cheap products and resulting low inflation and interest rates. Our manufacturing jobs went into services. But now those countries are developed and we need to adjust to that fact and treat them differently. This is the problematic phase we are going through today. Democracy is ill suited to negotiate with a Chinese and Russian government which is popular and in power for a long time. This affords them the perspective and vision which is lacking in a short term democratically elected government in the West which is only interested in getting re-elected and has to please the big corporations which fund them at the same time.
    25th Sep 2020
    I arrived in Oz in 1964 and thought it was a great place to live. The only drawback was a lack of air-conditioning! Luckily that has been fixed. I married a local girl in 1966 and we're still together after 54 years, with two children and three grandchildren. We're now retired of course and I don't have too many complaints, although the later generations of politicians could have handled the economy much better. I still don't regret moving here all those years ago, even having made return holiday trips to the UK five times.
    25th Sep 2020
    I came here a little over 40 years ago and have witnessed many changes in Australia. I can see two sides, positives and negatives that have evolved since then. On the positve side we are today a much more tolerant and multicultural society with a much more integrated indigenous population. Materially we are not much better off when I consider wages today and back then and what you can buy with the money you earn. Housing and food takes a much bigger chunk of our wage today, whilst technology and services have become relatively cheaper. Employment in the service industry of today is much more pleasant work than on the assembly lines of manufacturing. We have become much more service orientated, though still a long way behind Asia. The interconnectedness of our economy with the world has meant no wars, and that is my biggest fear today: this trend to become self reliant again will lead to isolation from where it's much easier to engage in war. The US especially worries me, the fearmongering against China seems often irrational and over the top, and there may be an agenda for another war. And we know who benefits most from war - the big corporations and the banks! The population suffers.

    On the negative side I have seen Australia become more materialistic and less caring. More than ever our politics follow the lead of the US. In my opinion we are backing the wrong horse here, we should engage with our Asian neighbours instead and take a more independent stand in the world. We are ideally situated to be a neutral country and a voice for justice and reason in the world. Unfortunately after the Whitlam sacking both sides of politics have learnt that you can't take on the power of the US. It would take a true leader to achieve a level of Australian independence in today's world, also becoming a republic in the process. Another problem I see today is our stand on the environment. As long as both sides of politics are beholden to the polluting mining industries which fund them, we will not realize our true potential. We have unlimited solar energy potential here, one example is the project near Kathrine which will export power to Singapore. Yet the government insists on opening up more coal mines and destroy our agricultural land by fracking and gas extraction. We are destroying ourselves in the process going against nature. The same applies with increased land clearing and the resulting drying up of the climate and the annual bushfires.
    Up front lady
    25th Sep 2020
    Absolutely true, spot on.
    Now to convince the government!
    26th Sep 2020
    The problem is politicians from our current political parties created the deal that has done this and their colleagues have their snouts in the trough and are continuing to exploit it. In the mean time politicians and the wealthy of multiple generations have invested in those who stand to win by our demise. They are unlikely to step back while they still see a chance to make more money at the nation's expense. That's why they'll means test older Australian, but not tax large multinationals. It seems like treason to me, but I'm just an old guy.
    25th Sep 2020
    With blind arrogant self serving goverments I’m not at all surprised Aus is going down the tubes and sold to the highest bidder,it’s a national disgrace,put Aussie workers on the dole bring in foreign labour then persecute those Aussie citizens on dole and welfare,I’m sorry but the word traitors keeps coming to mind.
    26th Sep 2020
    Totally agree with you. In some countries, they'd face severe criminal penalties for this, but if you are wealthy or a politician, we don't ever prosecute or convict you.
    When I was in business, if I made decisions that endangered my employees or customers, I could be fined or face jail.
    So here we are watching politicians make decisions like the Ruby Princess and the Hotel Quarantine and they don't even get a smack over the knuckles. They sign the Lima Declaration and we turn a blind eye. They destroy our economy, sell off critical assets to foreign nations and take on debt with nations that have clear global domination aims, and what do we do? Nothing.
    25th Sep 2020
    26th Sep 2020
    Totally agree, but our treasonous politicians agreed with the Lima Declaration in 1975 and the country has gone down the tubes ever since. The Lima Declaration on the surface calls for the redistribution of world industry so that developing countries would have 25% of it by the year 2000. Hidden behind this was the power of the very rich to fund the poorer nations and to reduce growth in rich countries. The stated goal was to close the gap between rich and poor nations, but the reality was to make the rich nations and their people poorer and give financiers an even bigger slice of the world pie.
    We were to lower our standards, introduce penalties for those who tried to succeed (tariffs), become more dependent on other nations, become poorer, open up our education to others, and basically sell out our sovereignty. The crime that has never been prosecuted is that the politicians who signed the declaration, never had the Australian population's approval to do so.
    Lima was supposedly about establishing a new world order and economic order, but was really about a grab for wealth and power by a small number of people. Think about this: global capitalists use transnational corporations to make massive profits and pay minimal if any taxes. They don’t care about the best interests of Australia or Australians, only their own profits, which are bigger if they employ workers in poorer nations on minimal wages. And if you make all nations poorer, you remove their ability to fight back.
    27th Sep 2020
    This November I shall have been here 50 years. Not everything was fantastic in 1970, sure getting a job was easier. We simply did not have such a choice of things to buy like we have now and a lot of people need everything now and the wages do not keep up with that. I remember I had an FM radio, the band was totally empty with only the sound track of ABC TV broadcasting on it. Could afford a car, no seat belts required, could have a few Fosters down the pub and drive home. No RBT, as long as you did not weave around the cops left you alone. Not more accidents then and not many home invasions either. Looking back at my wages and the tax taken out, we were better off but only because the choice of available goods was limited. Money lasted longer and we were no flying around some place every year. A fortnight in a caravan park was a yearly treat, hopefully around Christmas time. But would you really want to go back to that? Be honest.
    18th Oct 2020
    Don't forget that Hawke was in charge of the trade union movement before he became PM and responsible for all the unreasonable demands of unions. The buck stopped with him.

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