Cars follow dresses in manufacturing decline

With today’s announcement that Toyota will stop manufacturing cars by 2017 and SPC’s future looking bleak, large-scale manufacturing in Australia appears all but over.

Australia’s Coalition government has decided they won’t commit themselves to a string of handouts unlike the Labor government.

No government wants to have massive job losses on their hands but when do you stop handing out money?

But what’s more expensive? Supporting those workers who will lose their jobs, or bribing companies to stay open?

It reminds me of a story I did in 2012 for The Weekly about dressmakers in Melbourne and the decline in domestic textile manufacturing. Once thriving, the industry suffered as import quotas were dropped and places like India and China became economically attractive for manufactures.

“Flinders Lane, where I started working, was full of manufacturers, button and trim suppliers, fabric suppliers. As a junior, I’d get sent down the road and told, ‘Go and get some buttons for this order’, so I’d be there looking at racks and racks and racks of buttons. It was great, I loved it.

“But after they dropped the import quotas in the ’80s you could import a whole garment on what you would spend on fabric.”

One dressmaker believed the industry could have been saved if companies had adopted better machinery and had turned their attention to high-end manufacturing like Italy did.

“They invested a lot of money in skills and equipment. Their mills and machinery are top-of-the-range and they produce the luxury product that they’re known for. We could have done the same with all the expertise we had in Australia.”

This can be said for industries now in trouble. Why didn’t car companies respond quicker to local demand? Why didn’t they start making smaller and greener cars sooner?

If manufacturing does indeed cease to be one of Australia’s leading employers, then there has to be a plan in place to assist those workers to transition to other forms of employment.

When I think about those in my year at school, many of the boys ended up as fitter and turners, mechanics, working in mines and vineyards. What jobs will there be now for them? Will tech studies and TAFE courses – so heavily promoted as a way to keep boys at school – now be a thing of the past?

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Money-saving tips for life

I’m by no means the world’s best saver but I (generally) live within my means and have picked up a few money-saving habits along the way. These won’t necessarily help you save for that house deposit, but it might give you a bit of breathing space.

1. Don’t have a credit card

This might seem obvious but it still surprises me how many of my friends rack up card debts. I’ve never had a credit card and don’t plan on having one in the future. It’s a good way to limit your spending – you can’t buy that $300 if you don’t physically have the money.

2. Fridge specials

I used to be pretty bad at wasting food until I lived with a frugal housemate. She wouldn’t let me go to the supermarket until we’d eaten all the food in the fridge and cupboard. Who knew you could make soup out of pretty much anything? I’ve now adopted this habit and it’s paid off – literally.

For example, this week we didn’t get time to go to the market to stock up on cheap meat and veg so we’re going to see if we can survive from what we have left.

3. Do without

For a long time we didn’t have a washing machine. We don’t have children so that probably makes a big difference but to be honest, there were quite a few families visiting the laundromat when we made the bi-weekly trip. Now we’ve ended up with a washing machine – for free. We also don’t have a microwave and most of our kitchen appliances have been given to us.

4. Clothes for nix

I never seriously considered sourcing my wardrobe second-hand until I moved to Katherine in the Northern Territory where retail options were limited. But I fell in love with op-shops there and have continued to be a devotee here in Melbourne. What’s not to love about getting six items for $30? I recently found a Cue dress in mint condition for about $10 – perfect for work.

As well, I’ve brought back a tradition of clothes swaps. Simply invite your friends around and if they have some they can bring some clothes they no longer want. They’re bound to find a new home – you get a new outfit or two and the unwanted pieces can be dropped off at the local op-shop.

5. Save $5 notes

A friend’s mum gave me this tip a few weeks back – don’t spend $5 notes. Save them and put them in an envelope in a drawer and watch them grow. I’ve saved nearly $100 in just a few weeks.

6. Join a library

I used to spend a small fortune on buying magazines and books but since joining the local library I’ve tempered my spending on these excess items. It’s free and you’ll get all the books, magazines and DVD’s you’d ever want.

Adopt these tips and you’ll carry them through life no matter what you’re earning.

What are your tips to save a few dollars?