There is a great opinion piece in the rural press today (available at Queensland Country Life) on “Why Holden’s crutch matters to ag.” The author Gregor Heard opines:
Some tough questions have to be asked about our car manufacturers and their ongoing viability, given cheap labour costs internationally.
No one wants to see a repeat of Thatcher’s Great Britain, where the manufacturing sector was forcibly brought to its knees, causing great hardship to many families, however could we not transition these manufacturing workers into industries that have a real future in Australia?
That $275 million could go a long way towards improving profitability in many rural-based businesses.
You look at the creaky infrastructure moving the nation’s grain to port.
Investment in this is a long-term positive for the government, who will see return on their capital for 35 years to come.
How long before the car manufacturers have their hands out again?
I don’t think it will be long until Ford comes to the Federal Government pleading for more money, as it’s been obvious for a number of years that Ford is the next Mitsubishi and its future as a manufacturer in Australia is doubtful.
While we’d need to assess investments on a case-by-case basis, the rural sector clearly deserves greater attention from the Federal Government, particularly given the huge increase in demand for food globally that will occur over the next few decades. Australia has a real comparative advantage in agriculture based on abundant land, skilled labour, world leading R&D and a reputation for high quality.
Greater attention to the rural sector would be good from the Queensland economy’s perspective, too, as it would mean we’d get a greater share of federal largesse, rather than having it go to car manufacturers in Victoria and SA.