[Forum] The letters from C. Hemmings and Robert Findley in edition 250 both advocating manufacturing self-sufficiency for the country, display a failure to grasp reality.
Mr Findley’s claim that “We had a wonderful country and were self-reliant” is pure fantasy: Australia has never, in its history, been self-sufficient, and, as the world becomes more complicated and integrated, the chances of our ever being self-sufficient recede at increasing speed.
The fact that Mr Findley could once buy (over-priced) footwear made in Australia had, as its main effect, the inability of many people to afford shoes, for the simple reason that the productive mechanism was too inefficient to be globally competitive.
That was not something to be proud of.
This same factor applied, across the board, in a wide range of manufacturing activities that were only kept alive by measures protecting them from real competition, thus making every Australian poorer than was necessary, for no purpose other than benefit to protectionist politicians and to entrepreneurs who could take advantage of this cosy environment.
A world in which every country concentrates on its natural advantage and trades the product of that natural advantage (material or non-material) with other countries that operate on the same principle is one where we all benefit.
In order to make even a gesture towards self-sufficiency in manufacturing, we should have to be prepared to make ourselves measurably poorer – not a policy that many politicians would relish advocating to the electorate.
Of course, Mr Hemmings is correct (as I have said so myself) that we need to protect strategic supply lines, to have a national stockpile of vital commodities (not an oil supply stored in the USA) and to possess a sufficient and agile manufacturing sector that can respond to emergency situations.
With these capacities, we can strengthen ourselves against international blackmail and maintain a capability to cope with unexpected natural occurrences.
That is the foundation of our national security and is unarguable.
Beyond this, nostalgia for Chesty Bond athletics is not a viable basis for structuring our employment targets, directing our training priorities and positioning ourselves within the international community.
Email, Jul 10
Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy