Comments from the new Minister Arthur Sinodinos today are an appalling indictment on the Turnbull Liberal Government’s callous disregard for the livelihoods of thousands of everyday Australians.
In remarks reported by the Australian Financial Review, Senator Sinodinos callously warned Australians not to become nostalgic about dying industries, like car manufacturing, saying that “nothing is forever.”
Reportedly, Senator Sinodinos expressed no regret at the decision to end government co-investment in automotive manufacturing, likening the situation to the loss of steelmaking in his hometown of Newcastle in the late nineties.
Instead of being the Government’s top advocate for advanced manufacturing, innovation and high-skilled jobs, Senator Sinodinos sounds more like the Industrial Grim Reaper.
Having already decided which industries are marked for demise, Senator Sinodinos is clearly determined to advance that great Liberal tradition of industry asphyxiation in order to fulfil the prophecy.
Because the tragic reality is that the Liberals don’t just blindly believe that industries must cease – they actively participate in their demise.
The end of motor vehicle manufacturing in Australia was not inevitable.
It is happening because the Abbott Government goaded Holden to leave, giving Toyota no choice but to follow, because without at least two car makers there would not be enough demand to sustain a domestic supply chain.
These galling remarks from Senator Sinodinos are yet further evidence of the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s punitive attitude towards Australian manufacturing and jobs.
Worse, it demonstrates that the new Minister has a very vague understanding, at best, of the economic impact of the Government actions that is now unfolding before our eyes.
Automotive manufacturing in Australia from GM Holden alone generated, on average, 18 times the amount of economic activity in Australia for every $1 dollar of government assistance received.
Even a dry Treasury economist like Arthur Sinodinos would tell you that’s a good return on any investment.
On top of the lost economic benefit from such large-scale advanced manufacturing activity, the loss of jobs will likely cost the Commonwealth far more in social security payments than support for innovation through co-investment.
Automotive manufacturing is not the mindless, robotic assembly line so often painted by its critics in the Liberal party.
The fact is that modern automotive manufacturing is cutting edge and hi-tech, with an average 30,000 individual parts in every modern car and an average 250 microprocessors.
Designing and manufacturing a modern motor car is precision engineering at its best. However, in Australia, thanks to the concerted efforts of the Liberals, that is a unique skill-set we are on the verge of losing.
Independent experts have predicted the loss of up to 200,000 jobs across the supply chain and associated industries and a $29 billion hole in our GDP.
That’s the scale of the catastrophe we are dealing with, though Senator Sinodinos would have you believe it will be a walk in the park.
Senator Sinodinos points to his experience growing up in Newcastle as evidence of how local economies will weather this crisis. Perhaps it is he who is being nostalgic, misremembering a time of trauma and anxiety as upbeat and rosy.
To use a more relevant example, we know that when Mitsubishi closed its Adelaide plant in 2008 only around a third of the workers found new jobs, a third were thrown onto precarious casual working conditions, and a third never worked again.
And that was at the height of the mining investment boom.
Now that investment boom is over and we are facing the shutdown of an entire sector – not just one plant. The implications for hundreds of thousands of Australian working families are alarming.
The so-called ‘disruption’ that excites economic theorists and neoliberals like Arthur Sinodinos is not so exciting and not so theoretical when you lose your livelihood and your community is gutted.