11 November 2008

Stable for days in cars

Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It's the only way to live in cars

Here in my car
I can only receive
I can listen to you
It keeps me stable for days in cars

Here in my car
Where the image breaks down
Will you visit me please
If I open my door in cars

- Gary Numan Cars (1981)

Advertisements for motor vehicles in this country take pains to stress their product is "fully imported", which does not happen in any of the other fourteen countries that can apparently build a car from scratch (nor in any of the countries that can't, presumably, as it would be redundant).

Apart from the Holden Commodore and the Toyota Corolla, all cars manufactured in this country are rubbish. They cost more than they are worth and should not be made. There are better ways to spend six billion dollars for the future of this country than more and more Mitsubishi 380s: why spend it on vehicles when the roads they drive on are so inadequate? Stephen Kirchner is right when he says that investment in the car industry is investment denied elsewhere, but I wish he'd been more specific and less dogmatic.

Why not concentrate on Australian R&D, without the focus on manufacturing? The Toyota hybrid to be made in Victoria is a stop-gap solution because it's not linked to any concerted R&D effort that reduces emissions without sacrificing grunt.

The reason why Labor loves the idea of Australian-made cars is because of the major role that the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union plays in its affairs. Kill the car industry and a large union with much clout becomes as irrelevant as the French Polishers' Guild. It's clear that a Labor Government will never do anything sensible with the car industry.

The next Coalition government should support R&D and the manufacture of Australian cars that people actually want to buy. There will be some social dislocation within Labor seats (both in communities and in terms of preselections), but we all must make sacrifices. The rustbelts of other countries - including those countries that can go from drawing board to production, etc. - should serve as a warning to those regions within this country clinging to doomed industries. Those communities had a glimpse of their future in the early '90s when the eternal footman held their coats and snickered, they have no right to complain if they have failed to learn that lesson.

Rudd's Labor won its victory not in the rustbelt, but in the sunbelts of the country where growth is being held back through lack of infrastructure. Stopping the mendicant car industry in its tracks would have rewarded the faith of those who put Rudd into office, and who can remove him if when he disappoints them.

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