British Free Trade Policies Wiping Out Australian Manufacturing

Added by on May 9, 2011

Citizens Electoral Council leader Craig Isherwood declared that the British free trade policies wiping out Australian manufacturing and looting our resources must end, now.

Australia has lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs in the past three years, and it is set to get worse. Ford Australia has announced it will lay off 240 workers in July, and Shell will chop more than 300 workers when it closes its Clyde oil refinery later in the year.

Contrary to what Australians have been told, the much-touted mining “boom” is not making up for the losses in manufacturing; in fact, it is making the crisis worse. In GDP terms, mining has expanded to a larger share of the economy than manufacturing, which has collapsed by more than half since the 1970s, but total employment in Australian mining is less than one-fifth of the number of people left employed in manufacturing.

The extent to which mining is actually looting Australia is a scandal. Free trade was imposed on Australia to boost mining exports, but those exports of overwhelmingly raw materials are robbing Australia of the far greater income that comes from manufactured exports; in the case of aluminium, manufactured products earn 120 times the raw material.

Furthermore, free trade is blocking even minimal flow-on benefits from mining activity. The metals fabricators of Western Australia are screaming—rightly—that local manufacturers are excluded from building the plant for local mines. According to the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) secretary Dave Oliver, 15 years ago, 85 per cent of mine inputs were manufactured in Australia, but today that has plummeted to barely more than 5 per cent. “Go down the Kwinana strip south of Perth where these metal fabricators are located and not much is happening,” he told the  Weekend Australian.