Power Equipment Australasia

OPINION The Big Challenge - can Australians be manufacturers again? With the plethora of Chinese and other third world products encouraging us to buy and dispose off a wide range of power equipment, it’s easy to despair of a resurrection of Australia’s manufacturing industry. Who can forget great companies like Greenfield, Villiers and Kirby’s? The list could go on and on. Back in those days, we were protected by heavy customs duties, some as high as 55 per cent, which allowed for the development of what was a thriving manufacturing industry. Yes, you can tell your children about the days when we used to make Massey Ferguson Combine Harvesters at Sunshine in Victoria, Combines in South Australia and lots more. So where did it all go? The reality is we became influenced by a wave of great Japanese products. Honda took charge with a major program to introduce their revolutionary “good looking engines” that far surpassed the cost and expertise of American and English products that we had gotten used to. Honda was followed by Kawasaki, Fuji Heavy Industries with their Robin brand and finally by Yamaha as well. Although, they entered the market as engine suppliers to Australian OEMs, it wasn’t long before the lessons they learnt from dealing with those customers resulted in these same companies branching out into fully imported equivalent products. But still, the Australian manufacturing industry survived until the onslaught of the cheap third world option. That’s where our problems really started. Keating is famous for saying during the recession we “had to have”. When asked what do you say to a guy who has just lost his job driving a radial drill for the last 35 years? Keating’s answer was: “How do you like your new job?” That makes some sense because those people did find other jobs. Theymay not have been technical jobs or engineering projects but they were, by and large, employed. Now you would be wondering what this story is actually about? It’s simple. We’re living in a world where we have allowed ourselves to become dependent on third world manufacturers, and particularly the People’s Republic of China. Take a look in any tool shop or your own power equipment showroom, you are bound to find engines made in China. Take a look in country or suburban tips and you’ll find loads of third world products designed to be sold and not maintained. Often, it isn’t supported with spares and the customer buys simply because it is available and on display and may even appear like a ‘Special’. The point we’re trying to make here is that we’ve allowed ourselves to be sucked into what is easy, which in the present political and trades perspective is very dangerous.