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You haven’t driven a Ford… lately

Thursday, 23 May 2013 | By Taskmaster

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Ford has announced plans to end car production in Australia. It confirms to Old Taskmaster that, despite billions of dollars in subsidies stretching all the way back to the days of Laurence Hartnett and Prime Minister Ben Chifley in the 1940s, the Australian auto sector still isn’t viable.


After all, you probably haven’t driven a Ford lately, now have you?


Quite aside from the devastation this will cause across the auto parts sector and among other suppliers, Geelong’s local economy will, most likely, be sent to the cattery. And it won’t be the one in Kardinia Park, either.


No doubt, over the coming weeks, a special assistance package will be announced “to help the auto industry workers” of Geelong. Just like the one that dismally failed to help former steel workers in the Illawarra region.


Of course, we all know how this story ends. Big government throws a whole heap of cash at a region where a major manufacturer has pulled out, especially as it’s on the eve of an election. The fact the region is partly covered by one of Australia’s most marginal federal electorates (Corangamite) is just a happy coincidence for Labor.


Soon, Julia Gillard will stand on the shores of Corio Bay and promise that jobs will be created in the Geelong region through its assistance package – her government swears! And this promise won’t be like the surplus promise, or the no carbon tax promise, or the business tax cuts promise! Oh no, this time it will be different! And look over there at “Mean Joe” Hockey – he hasn’t committed to this package yet – blame him!


Of course, in a year or two, it will emerge that this program produces jobs in the same way a frozen microwave dinner produces an edible meal that looks like the one on the box.


Of the few jobs that actually materialise from the program, fewer are in transformational local start-ups and even fewer still will employ former auto workers with no other skills. On the plus side, both of the former Ford employees who actually gain employment under the program will be happy in their new jobs.


Well, Old Taskmaster says this: It’s time to evaluate how exposed your business is to the auto industry, both directly and indirectly. Because of the cascade effect a major employer pulling out can have on a city like Geelong, this includes checking to see if you have any stores or franchisees in the area.


Also examine your reliance on government handouts. While short-term or once-off grants can give a start-up a boost, long term dependency is a different matter. If you are overly reliant on subsidies, it might be time to plan a way to ween your business off them.


After all, if you doubt dependency breeds inefficiency, take a look at the fuel consumption on a Ford Falcon!


Get it done – today!