A LONG-TIME Shoalhaven City councillor has said the establishment of the Flinders Industrial Estate and the employment of an industrial promotions officer allowed the region to cope with the closure of a number of industries over the years.
Councillor Greg Watson has seen industry come and go during his time in the region.
While he admitted he was sad to learn of the future demise of Holden manufacturing in Australia, like most of the nation, he was not surprised the company’s decision.
Over the years the Shoalhaven has seen a number of local industries disappear or wind back – the John Bull Rubber Company and Pelaco Shirt Company at Bomaderry, Gates Rubber at South Nowra, the deregulation of the dairy industry and then eventually the closure of the Dairy Farmers Factory at Bomaderry and more recently the winding back of activities at the Australian Paper Mill at Bomaderry.
“There has been a lot of industries disappear for a variety of reasons,” Cr Watson said.
“But I honestly believe the reason the area has been able to survive and battle through tough economic times is because the council developed the Flinders Industrial Estate and employed the first industrial promotions officer.
“That gave us the opportunity to create a number of small manufacturing industries which have since of course expanded.
“I recall very well companies like Rosebery Spray, Nowra Chemicals, Keystone Valves and so on starting, and most of which are still represented in the area today, although there may have been name changes.
“These small industries spread the risk and to some extent made up for the loss off the John Bull Rubber Company and other industries which have gone.
“The opportunity now, to do what we did in the ’70s, doesn’t exist.
“The total deregulation of our economy makes it almost impossible for the manufacturing industry in Australia because we can’t compete with wages and salaries paid in some of the Asian countries.”
He said the demise of Holden was a tragedy of almost unimaginable proportions.
“Early estimates indicate that in excess of 50,000 jobs will go Australia wide and that is because of the flow on effect of component manufacturers making everything from electronics to car seats,” he said.
“The situation has been caused by the total deregulation of the economy and in Australia’s case one of the greatest follies in my view ever undertaken by a government.
“Just about all our major manufacturers are gone and it seems that we are left in a very difficult situation to try and adapt the economy to provide for new employment opportunities.
“The big issue with manufacturing is you take raw materials and you value add thousands of times. We sell our raw materials for dollars and then buy the products back as manufactured products worth up to 100,000 times more than the net value of the raw material.”
He said the big question is over the future a businesses like BlueScope Steel if Toyota also decides to pull out of the country.
“Now is the time for Tony Abbott and those who have pushed the deregulation bandwagon to start structures to force a way back and start to protect our remaining fragile industry and this includes agriculture,” he said.
“It is absolutely ridiculous to see vegetables being imported from China.
“Locally we have certainly established the Aviation Technology Park which is an asset being able to support the defence industries but that also needs support.
“So where to from here?
“That is the big question.”