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Opinion

Holden: A cultural con or icon?

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Readers respond to our opinion piece yesterday, suggesting that the story of Holden has been a cultural con.

ANDREW SATTERLEY: I remember thinking when (Hawke Government industry minister) John Button brought in his policy of steadily reducing import tariffs that this inequitable scheme would eventually mean the death of the Australian car industry.

Progressive governments have continually reduced this tariff and at the same time signed free trade agreements with many of our competitors. Many of these same countries have a high tariff on our products and we certainly cannot export cars to these countries.

Brazil just very recently increased the tariff on imported cars to 30% to protect their local industry. Why have we not put higher tariffs on the mass, cheap to produce front wheel drive cars into Australia? Why have we not put high tariffs on large four wheel drive vehicles and the mass of SUVs which plague our roads? People who genuinely require proper four wheel drive vehicles, such as primary producers, farmers and miners, should be able to claim back such a tariff.

Why has the media continually derided the Commodore and Falcon? Large gas guzzlers; dinosaurs. In reality they are very close to “favoured” four-cylinder cars in fuel consumption and certainly offer a far better ride, safety and comfort.

Why has government not put an emphasis and commitment to buying local cars? Why have Labor, in particular, encouraged high, unaffordable wages for entry level jobs on the assembly line?

Yes we have been conned, by bad government decisions over many years. What hope do the car manufacturers have of being able to compete with the combined effects of low wages and mass production of our competitors? We are also conned because every car producing nation subsidise their product at a much higher rate that we do.

MARK NELSON:  Australia is a small place with a huge Holden following. Australians will remember and have a long memory. GM should think twice about canning the Holden brand and reintroducing Chevrolet.

I bet the take up won’t be so energetic.

ALLEN WOODHAM: This whole saga has been a gigantic con for many years. We can go back to the time when Senator John Button first adopted the globalist philosophy and introduced massive cuts in import tariffs. This resulted in goodbye to a host of industries – footwear, textiles etc.

Successive governments of all persuasions have followed the globalist program which has encouraged global conglomerates to establish in low cost countries. all to the detriment of Australian workers.

Wages and costs have ever increased as people have demanded their standard of living be maintained or improved and this has further moved Australia out of the global scene even while governments have continued to acquiesce to the demands of an uneven playing field as far as production and world trade is concerned. Free trade agreements have been a disaster for Australia and will continue to see the decline of industry in this country.

Governments of all persuasions have further created chaos as they have sold every state asset they could grasp to balance the books – temporarily – so that costs of utilities and general living costs have sky rocketed. Add to this the stupid nonsensical carbon tax and one is ready to commit senseless politicians to the funny farm. The genie is now well and truly out of the bottle and as the mining boom declines Australia is headed for banana republic status.

It is pointless to blame anyone specifically for the current situation as politicians of all persuasions think only about the next election and make their decisions on that basis. Animal Farm is alive and well in Australia with politicians and fat cats at the top of the tree and everyone else below.

DAVE WARD: I’m a director of a small medium enterprise that has been operating in the Adelaide Hills for more than 30 years. During December 2009 I went out and purchased a new V8 Holden Caprice – it’s a great motor vehicle having now done 70,000km without missing a beat. The only reason I purchased a new motor vehicle (the first time in my life after 63 years) was to keep the GM plant at Elizabeth running. It was my small contribution to the local economy.

Now, four years later, I have come to understand that manufacturing motor vehicles in Australia is exactly the same as manufacturing safety pins in Australia – we just can’t afford the labour costs to do the manufacturing in either industry when we need to compete for sales in a world market. This is not something new. We may not like it but, believe me, the workers in China, Korea and India are overall better educated than we are and work for less than half of what we “need” to exist. This is the fundamental issue – here in sunny Adelaide, a worker needs to earn a certain amount of money just to exist as a normal member of our community.

The GM manufacturing closure will force both Federal and State governments to get off the spinning wheel of throwing money down a bottomless pit and seriously start thinking about investing in SA-based SMEs that can provide long-term employment for thousands of local workers.

In our case, we would love to employ more people, but our payroll tax, land tax and workers compensation costs are just over the top compared to any other state in Australia. We are an established long-term SA small business slowly marking time, knocking back new work because we do not have the work force to do the jobs in a timely manner. We must reduce the cost of government, reduce taxes and invest in people – SA people.

ROB SILVA: Holden workers received confirmation the other day: in four years’ time, their jobs will run out and they will receive a generous redundancy. The government will probably have kicked in some cash for retraining and job re-entry schemes to make their transition easier. Make no mistake, this is a bad outcome for Holden workers.

However, there will be a great many jobs lost due to Holden’s departure. Yet most of the attention is being focussed on those who, relatively speaking, are the LEAST affected by this closure. What about the thousands of others whose jobs will disappear without four years’ notice, without a generous redundancy package and, probably in more cases than we want to know about, nothing more than GEERS (general employee entitlements and redundancy scheme) to fall back on?

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