Wednesday, 11 January 2012

For those of you who do not

know South Australia I need to explain that it has been heavily dependent on the car industry for many years.
When I was a child "Holden's" was situated on the Port Road and other drivers did their best to avoid the "shift-change" times there because of the heavy traffic streaming in and out of the plant. Looking back it was probably no worse, perhaps even better, than the traffic jams at peak periods now. However, at that time, drivers were not used to waiting in traffic. Traffic was light. You just drove, stopping occasionally for traffic lights or a vehicle coming in from the right. It is a very different story now.
Holden's employed a lot of people - almost all of them were men. There were just a few women employed in the office areas. Other places also employed a lot of people who supplied Holden's with parts and other supplies. The workforce was considered tough. It was strictly union based.
The plant is no longer there on the Port Road. It went many years ago. It went out to the then new satellite suburb of Elizabeth, an area with many migrants from the car factories of the United Kingdom and opened by Queen Elizabeth herself.
We had another large car plant at Tonsley too, the Mitsubishi plant. It also employed a great many people on site and off site. So many of the local deaf community worked there they had a special sign among themselves for the Tonsley plant.
Mitsubishi had a big government bail out some years ago. One hundred million dollars of tax payer money went into trying to save the place. It did not work. The area is still empty. Plans have been announced from time to time but nothing has happened yet. A lot of people lost their jobs. Some retired. Some found other jobs. The bail out is generally considered to have been a waste of tax payer money.
Now the same thing is happening again. Our State Premier has rushed off to the US to try and "save" Holden's. His efforts and our tax dollars may keep the assembly line going for a short while but it will not save it. Nothing can save it. It is expensive to assemble cars here. It is cheaper to assemble them elsewhere and then import them. The government knows this but it will persist anyway. They believe it will keep them in power and, aware of the dire economic consequences for the state, they will be reluctantly supported by their opposition.
The problem is that neither side has any vision for the future. They have not thought beyond cars. They have not thought about what else we might manufacture, or how we might do it. The word "diversification" is apparently not to be found in their vocabulary.
We could try bicycles, tricycles, electric bicycles, electric tricycles, electric vans and small buses for urban areas, housing units for disaster zones and deserts, the infrastructure units for alternative energy schemes and any number of other things. They may not be as complex as cars but they will all be needed in the future.
Perhaps we could even have a small corner producing e-book readers so that people can learn about diversification?

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