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Savage beast

By Gemma Machray - posted Tuesday, 17 September 2013

'It's Tony time' in Australia and now the election has passed, he will have to wade through the mire that is Australian economics and the dangers are multiple.

Interestingly, he won't be the first Tony to assume leadership during a time of financial fracking. In 1997, the ever smiling Tony Blair took the reins of a Tory tired Britain. He did his best but the premiership was still dogged, primarily by the Iraq war. And that was when the country was going through an affluent period. The current Prime Minister David Cameron remains on a quicksand economy, his fiscal policies having their survival married far more closely to global finances than he would like.

Tony Abbott could learn a lot by looking at Britain. After all he will now have the job of cleaning up the financial mess of the previous government. Not forgetting Syria looming on the horizon.


Read the papers and you are bombarded with the constant references to the weakened dollar and the apparent slowing of the mining industry. In 'Real solutions for all Australians' the Coalition's key policy document defines, with the lecturing voice of a parent, an economic policy that extols a sensible, real approach to finances – 'no more living beyond your means you naughty proletariat' shouts the page. (It may just be me but this sounds a little like a policy based on austerity. Oh the horror, the horror).

The Australian public will just have to buckle in and see how well Joe Hockey does with his new budget. Guaranteed, as there are with all penny pinching budgets, there will be losers. And the greatest fear is that it will be Australia's industries.

So the question Abbott and his band of merry men (and hopefully a few women) will have to address is: how will they float a budget that, before its birth, is having to battle? The answer seems to lie in two places; domestic growth and Asia.

Signs reading 'Buy your kids a job: buy Australian' are littering the billboards as you head into the CBD and essentially they are promoting the message that will create financial longevity. Given the recent move of a number of companies to bases overseas, this message has never been so pertinent.

Pacific Brands, a once-Australian goliath, has been based abroad since 2009 after receiving numerous government handouts to keep the workforce Australian. The move made them millions but cost Australia 1800 plus jobs.

Sadly this is no individual tale of woe; the car industry has been in receipt of government handouts for around 12 years and this still hasn't been enough. Ford Australia has announced that they will end production in 2016; Mitsubishi said that domestic manufacture was no longer viable and Holden reportedly is one of the greatest beneficiaries from the government. Australia's car market is now mostly made up of imports from Asia and Europe.


The new government has suggested that it will 'invest in small businesses to help create investment and employment' but what about keeping the bigger companies? How long can the government keep buoying the car manufacturing industry? It seems like the hold is tenuous at best, with its grip slipping as each year passes and the dollar fluctuates.

A local manufacturer in Victoria who provides staircases has been in business for nearly 100 years and says the difference from manufacturing 20 years ago to now is incredible.

'To keep the business profitable and purely Australian, I have had to adapt, it is hard to produce Australian now, wages are high and demand for lower priced pieces is higher. If people can buy a cheaper overseas alternative they will. I am lucky because the business has a strong reputation but smaller businesses must struggle to get a foothold.'

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About the Author

Gemma Machray was born into the height of Thatcher's Britain which may explain for her passionate interest in economics and politics. Before taking up writing full time, she was a high school English teacher and exam board marker in Scotland. She is on secondment in Australia for a year and is thoroughly enjoying Australian hospitality and political skullduggery.

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