The ‘lucky country’ we might be; the ‘smart country’ we are not

My working life in Australia began in Adelaide on 14 November 1947 and ended with my – Nellie Melba-like – final retirement 64 years later on 1 April 2011. (Very appropriate date.)

The first 36 years were spent (or wasted?) working for three separate Australian-owned manufacturing companies. 

The first was a pharmaceutical and drug company. The second manufactured electric power tools and accessories. The third, the biggest, manufactured refrigerator compressors and a wide range of whitegoods – domestic electrical home appliances, refrigerators, freezers, washing machines and room air conditioners.

All three companies have now gone out of business and the products they made are no longer manufactured in Australia but imported from overseas.

During that same period, Australia saw and celebrated the establishment of car manufacturing in Australia. It, too, has now gone.

What is, perhaps, even more tragic and economically depressing, is the number of other, value-adding industries that have followed vehicle, power tool and appliance manufacturing into oblivion in Australia.

Once upon a time we ‘added value’ to our exports by producing iron ore pellets, pig iron and steel. Now we just dig up the ore and ship it out.

We export huge numbers of live sheep and cattle, despite the fact that chilled or frozen meat is worth three or four times as much as ‘live’ stock and onshore meat processing would add hundreds of jobs in numerous by-product industries. We do not even own shares in the shipping companies that carry our jobs and national income away.

The ‘lucky country’ we might be; the ‘smart country’ we are not.

Do you concur with Peter’s views that Australia has made poor decisions in allowing so much manufacturing to be done overseas? Are we now paying for those decisions in being so reliant on overseas countries for essential goods?

Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to [email protected] and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

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Written by Peter Leith

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