I have had several views in many directions, but two issues are rising that require us to take a critical look at us. Some will agree, some will disagree and many will not know where they stand in these two issues. The first is again about labour, both work and politics.
Of course, it does not help when Bill shorten starts to ‘rant’ on the issues that hit many. The first issue is Alcoa. It is an Aluminum smelter. The first quote is “Aluminium manufacturer Alcoa has contradicted federal government claims that the carbon tax led to the decision to shut the company’s Point Henry smelter and two rolling mills in Geelong and western Sydney” (at http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/alcoa-contradicts-joe-hockey-on-reasons-for-smelter-shutdown-20140218-32yir.html)
In addition we see the quote from Bill Shorten where is said “It’s clear that a global oversupply of aluminium, dramatically falling aluminum prices and a high Australian dollar made the continuation of these operations impossible” he said.
Shall we take a small step back to the 12th of February 2013 where we see the following quote (at http://www.businessspectator.com.au/news/2013/2/12/resources-and-energy/alcoa-vic-pass-carbon-tax-liability-federal-govt)
“The plan addresses a long-standing issue whereby decades-old agreements between Alcoa and the state government included guarantees of cheap power that left Victoria holding the responsibility for the carbon tax due to an inability to pass on those costs to the aluminum giant.” as well as “Under the deals, the state will pay an increased power price and pass most of that through to Alcoa.”
So, taxation is up, power costs are up and prices are down. Mr Shorten needs to take a hard look at his own party and the shortages of his own Labor government where we see that these issues were known for over a year. The fact that Labor decides to park the issue until after the election means he now needs to remain quiet. Yes, it will be an issue, but for him to nag like a little girl is what happens when his predecessors decided to ignore the issue. The liberals warned about the dangers of the carbon tax, the people were hit massively hard by the carbon tax and now hell is to pay and in my view, the Labor party better foot that bill real quick. This is however not the first instance. In Feb 2012 a similar newscast was made by the Australian. The quote “ALCOA says a carbon tax will make life harder for the company as it reviews the future of its Victorian smelter and the jobs of up to 600 workers.” (at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/archive/national-affairs/tony-abbott-seeks-to-blame-threat-to-alcoa-smelter-jobs-on-carbon-tax/story-fn99tjf2-1226265695323), So Labor was aware for almost 2 years in their reign that the Carbon tax would have a definite influence.
The last line of that article by the Business spectator states “If we got all that right, it is no skin off Alcoa’s nose, is it? But it does take a significant burden off the Victorian taxpayer.” Well, see the result! It was apparently more than just skin of the nose of Alcoa and as such it becomes a different kind of burden on the taxpayers.
The final quote from the Business Spectator article was the one the article started with “Aluminium giant Alcoa and the Victorian state government have designed a complicated set of deals intended to place the liability for rising power costs onto the federal government, according to The Australian Financial Review.” So an American Company is deciding that the rising risk of higher power costs should be carried by our government? Alcoa reported (at http://www.alcoa.com/australia/en/news/releases/2014_01_09_4Q_Earnings.asp) on January 2014 the following:
Revenue of $23.0 billion whilst reporting a Net loss of $2.3 billion, or $2.14 per share
Let us not forget that this was a better result than 2012, so Labor KNEW that there were several issues here. When you ‘service’ an American corporation who loses well over 2 billion whilst reporting revenue at 23 billion, there are issues plain and simple. I can agree with some that there claim made by Joe Hockey is not completely accurate (in regards to the carbon tax being the reason), but there is no doubt that at a 2.3 billion dollar loss, the carbon tax might have been the proverbial straw that broke the American Smelter Camel’s back!
We should however not just blame Bill Shorten (even if some feel that this is a more comfortable choice). The Honourable Kim Carr (seen in newscasts bearing a slightly less waxed chin then Bill Shorten) has been in both the foreground and background in more than one occasion. So it is only fair we take his actions in account as well. If we consider my blog article ‘The last Australian car‘ from February 12th we see a few more angles that gives worries to the Labor side of it all, especially in light of the quote “writer Judith Sloan brings a case that Australia has subsidised almost $1900 per vehicle produced.” I mentioned. Is it a good deal when we see these costs and support numbers go out? If we take $2,000 subsidy per car and if we consider that Toyota made 100,000 cars last year, we see the costing of $200 million a year in subsidies, which is a lot more than what the workers would cost every year. So, no matter how good it looks, $200 million is way too large a bill to just handover to a car giant. Is there an alternative? Perhaps the Dutch alternative where VDL Nedcar, who was initially in the news in 2012 with the headline “Mitsubishi Motors to sell NedCar plant for 1 euro to VDL” was the beginning of a new plant, completely refitted for 24 hours a day automated manufacturing. They are now starting to build the new MINI Hatch as per this summer. Is there an opportunity for Australia? Yes!
With an upcoming customer base of 22 million (deserted by Ford, Holden and Toyota), VDL Nedcar might see Australia as the opportunity of a lifetime.
It is however not just the car industry. Sky News is just now showing another iteration of job losses in Victoria (at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/19/victoria-promised-federal-funds-as-alcoa-shutdown-adds-to-job-losses), so as Sky News and the Guardian shows us, what I would see as the hollow words of Bill shorten were he states “Spend the money this year, then you can save hundreds of jobs, you can keep excellent world-class naval construction skills in this country.”
Yes, Labor is all about SPENDING money! Let us not forget that the treasurer has been presenting the massive bill that Labor left Australia. The National debt went from 58 billion in 2007 to 257 billion in 2013, all under Labor. So perhaps the irritating quote by Labor leader Bill Shorten on “Tony Abbott and photo opportunities” should change. He should ask how his own party had been spending money they never had in the first place. When we see the $200 million in slave labour bonus (oops, I meant subsidy) for Toyota we have to wonder how long until we are all at the mercy of whoever owns these debt markers (most likely the banks). Labor does not get to nag on the cost of living whilst overspending a little over $11,000 per Australian resident. So when we hear another whinge by Bill Shorten on the deficit, consider that his party had been spending it, making it all a lot harder for many Australians in the upcoming time-span 2014-2016.
The issue of the car makers as well as Alcoa were already known issues in the Labor era and shouting now, whilst not securing these markets (which was in all honesty not a realistic option) is just plain wrong.
In addition there is one strong factor, which has been a known weakness was not dealt with in the Labor era either. It is the energy shortage, which is at the heart of several factors (especially Alcoa). If we accept the ABC transcript (at http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2006/s1796094.htm), then it is only fair that we point part of this blame at the Liberals as well. The issue was known since 2006 (even though Labor got to power in 2007). From several texts, I myself come to the conclusion that something had to be started in 2005, which was not done. Labor ignored it for 2 whole terms making the issue just a lot harder and now the Liberals MUST address this issue. If you are wondering how correct or how wrong I am than just take a look at your Australian energy bill. My bills have grown, whilst remaining a stable user, by over 100% in less than 6 years. This makes it a hike of over 16% a year. In addition, the carbon tax really pushed up the prices. Focusing on cheaper energy would have made a real difference for all parties concerned. In addition, this is not a local issue, it is not a national issue, but it is almost a global issue. The same issue can be seen in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom (very clearly), as well as America. So, it is nice to keep making cars and Aluminum, but if it is not financially viable, the tax payer ends up footing the bill no matter which road we take. So, the dollar, our work conditions and other factors will always remain an issue, but if energy prices are not solved, the one part that will drain any options we might have had. Consider the Business Spectator quote “Point Henry alone represents almost 7 per cent of Victoria’s annual electricity consumption“, so one plant needs THAT much? How could this issue have been ignored for almost 3 administrations? I see that there is a manufacturing issue in Australia, but if the energy prices are not dealt with, we will see a national shift from bad to worse.
Perhaps this will be the moment of innovation; perhaps we should focus on other areas. It only takes one innovator to come with that golden idea that brings income (not costs) to our states. I just hope that politicians on both sides of the aisle will listen to that person.