Australian Made – What is it really worth?

It is amazing how this little cherry still survives, ‘Australian Made’.  That old moniker, which was originally a great concept and being setup and run as a public, not-for-profit company.  Most people understand the concept of not-for-profit.  It is an organisation, which is set-up to serve a certain purpose and break even or minimal profit, or profit that is redistributed back into the business or donated to a charitable cause.  So why would someone set-up a business that doesn’t allow you to maximise your profit or earnings? Well the person who establishes this style of organisation, I imagine has some intention of giving back, but there is also the perk of being able to  set your own ‘reasonable wage’.

So what exactly is a reasonable wage? What the average Australian earns in itself is an interesting revelation.  The average income for a private sector worker is $1,038 per week, whilst the public sector the average income there is $1,255 per week.  This makes the public sector worker earn on average $11,248 a year more than a private sector worker.   With a public sector employee earning on average of $65,260 per annum.  So it sounds like it pays to work a public job of some kind.  It seems to be the right direction to take for anyone who maybe unskilled.  There are always opportunities in the public sector.  It would definitely be a great grounding place for a prosperous future.  That’s if you do the maths.

What maths?  Well the typical Australian corporate worker would have typically have got a higher education to ‘further’ their options when it came to employment.  The only thing is, it doesn’t further your options.  It actually limits them.  Most higher educations allow you to get a specific job, like a lawyer or a doctor and that’s pretty much it.  So if you end up getting your degree and begin practicing in the art of what ever you have learned.  You better be good or well you’re pretty much go no other option! Whilst this is probably rare and those in these fields are naturally high achiever, if you do happen to strike out, you’re right back with the common folk, looking for a ‘job’ and paying that education debt.

But in today’s society I find it refreshing to hear people discuss what they are earning.  The most bizarre part of this whole mantra of not kosher to talk about your financial earnings, a majority would probably be more comfortable talking about their sex life amongst mates than their earnings.  I met one guy tonight who told me straight up, he works in the mines in Adelaide, works 7 days on 12 hour shifts, then he has 7 days off.  So its torture one week, then holiday the next. That is something definitely I couldn’t do, along with many others.  That’s why, for the average person they earn pretty damn good wage.  Most people I have spoken to who work in the mines earn in excess of $100k per year.  It’s big business and pays well.

Which brings me back to Australian Made.  Did you know that businesses pay a fee for the ability to use the Australia Made logo? Well yes they do, whilst its reasonable, but why?  How else do you expect this Logo to survive, they would ask? Surely it would take an army of people to protect a logo and regulate it’s use.  I was also curious to find out how much these people get paid but I can’t seem to find an annual report, even though it’s a public company.   But in all essence  isn’t it stupid that someone/company needs to pay extra to have a recognised Australian Made logo on their packaging, whilst already battling price pressures from imported products, Australian Made ones need to pay to use a logo, making their costs increase even more.  Wouldn’t it make sense for companies to be able to just say Australian Made, whilst you probably could list Australian Made on your product,  not using the official would just look kind of dodgy to average Australia consumer.  The current logo, is quite iconic and recognisable for what it means.  The flip side is trying to mimic the current Australian Made logo, but this would surely breach copyright.  Sounds a bit confusing to me.

Some may argue that the money that is raised through membership fees is being used to lift the Australian Made profile.  Like the massive billboard I saw driving down the Monash Freeway.  I find it odd that they need to advertise the Australian Made logo.  Surely when customers see the logo they make the preference to buy Australian made, well some do, but is supporting Australian made a priority to everyday people?  Australian made products in our traditional sectors such as consumer goods have been losing the battle to cheap imported goods for a while now, with the influx of on par quality home brand products, which are sold for much cheaper than branded. Either way the Australian made manufacturer loses out.  It begs the question of whether or not people prefer to buy Australian mad?  The typical answer people give is ‘yeah of course it supports other Australians’. But is it a reality? We all know what people say versus what they do is an extremely different thing.

Whilst that is the major benefit to our Australian economy,  do you ever wonder if those final profits remain within Australia?  Well not all the time.  While many products are ‘made in Australia’ this does not necessarily mean they are Australian Owned.  Don’t get me wrong supporting Australian’s through employment is very important, but should we also be concerned about where this money is going?  I am, that’s for sure.  I used to work for one of these companies myself, Simplot, the American owned company, which owns many house hold names such as Birds Eye, Leggo’s and John West amongst many others.  They have suite of products, which are Australia Made and they also use the Australian Made Icon where they can.

But of recent times as the continued banter of the cost of manufacturing in Australia grows, there has been speculation in the media regarding Simplot continuing manufacturing in Australia.  So whilst for a long time there, they were supporting Australia, now that the cost is too high, they may plan to move their manufacturing off shore, having hundreds of Australians lose their jobs. While Simplot are reducing their costs by moving their production to a cheaper nation.  So in reality, no real loss to them.  Money is still money.  Just like Ford, an American owned company employing many Australians, for your ability to buy Australian Made vehicles.  Unfortunately we know how that story went and yet again thousands of jobs slashed.

Unfortunately it paints a bit of a sad picture in that, we as a nation are struggling to be able to manufacture anything in Australia, due to labour costs.   It’s definitely a double edged sword when you have a need for local manufacturing but with Australia’s high levels of income, it is just not sustainable.  Ford is a fine example.  Whilst new car sales are at the highest point they have ever been, “So far this year, Ford has sold 7236 Falcons, about half of the number it sold in the first five months of 2010, a drop of 45.8 per cent.”  It just goes to show that really when it comes down to it, Australian Made doesn’t really matter.  The Australian option The Ford Falcon starting price on carsales 13 plated was $32k versus the the number one car the Mazda 3 13 plated was $19k.  So don’t even bother analysing the savings on petrol, you are already way ahead on cash in the bank, for a vehicle, which is probably a lot better and also has decent retention of value for a second hand car, in comparison to the Fords of course.

I know its only one example, but the question still does beg, do people really care about Australian Made or do they care more about their own pockets?  The proof is in the pudding and with so many Australian manfacturers struggling to compete with cheaper imported items, it’s an extremely tuff situation to be in.  I personally think that the current Australian Made idenfication isn’t a clear enough of a clasification.  The people of Australia should know whether or not the product is Australian Made and Owned because really, foreign owned has no guaratees of holding up their end of the deal with maintaining Australian Jobs and that’s what it should be all about.   Rather than just another not-for-profit disguised as an ‘official’ organisation who has the ability to ‘market’ Australian Made.

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