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15 April 2020
We watch with interest how society and our leaders approach a reinvigorated buy-Australian movement when we ultimately emerge from the COVID-19 threat.
During the emergency, the scarcity or unavailability of products including critical medical resources, has hit a nerve for many.
There are now a growing number of people keen to consider more closely what and how Australians are or should be growing, producing, manufacturing and, critically, buying.
It appears that in times of great national anxiety, big-picture issues gain a certain clarity and the Australian-made-and-owned ideal is among them.
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While it’s all good and well to simply identify a need to refocus on this message and promote the cause, the real need is to work on ways to make it as easy as possible to happen.
While we’re seeing manufacturers step up to meet all sorts of immediate demands during the crisis, generating success in a usual market environment is usually far from simple.
Open international markets, balance-of-trade requirements and appropriate Australian workplace conditions and salaries are all ingredients in a complicated industry melting pot.
A nationalistic conscience in the marketplace has always represented a starting point in this push for people to buy Australian products.
But reality is the buy-Australian message will always be up against it if products cannot match the price of cheap overseas imports – in many cases regardless of quality.
Most Australians live on week-to-week salaries and every dollar counts at that moment of sale.
In a pinch, we often cannot help but choose the most affordable option if it is readily available, does the job or feeds the family.
We’ve seen businesses create products and then cleverly massage scales of production to generate a living.
It can be a tough balancing act between expansive or conservative approaches and it is impressive that some can make it work.
The reality is Australian society is a victim of its national economic wealth and internationally our manufacturers, if they want to expand in a big way, are up against overseas countries where cheap labour abounds.
With companies being exposed to this sort of environment and struggling to compete, there is little wonder many consider manufacturing everyday items we might and should be able to produce in this country not worth the worry, expense, time and effort.
It appears just too hard and we have seen many cases where an Australian manufacturer or wholesaler has had a crack at breaking the mould, only to fall on the sword and sell out to a distant investor with little national, state or regional empathy.
The arrival and impact of COVID-19 has magnified fresh awareness that perhaps we should take notice of decades of promotion and support our home-grown industries.
It has raised questions about how we might change the market environment, promote Australian products and ultimately generate higher levels of product security.
But there is more to this than a basic call for people to read product labels before making a purchase.
In the end, it will come down to the price consumers pay for the final product. The hip pocket means everything.
If we produce something in Australia, we should aim to make it not only better and more readily available than an imported equivalent, but also less expensive.
As Australians we should be able to, in relative terms, afford what our country produces and work in a system that realistically stimulates the concept of producing and supporting ‘our own’.
How do we make it happen in a contemporary trade environment? It is hard to know.
Do we need perhaps some clever national, state, regional or municipal incentives to help shape our shopping habits, critically based on cost? Most likely.
History shows we can be clever at developing creative economic processes when under pressure, experience periods of revelation, which we are going through, or when the doors to innovation and opportunity swing open.
The entire April 15, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!