There has been a lot of discussion about the coalition of women, African Americans and Latino voters that supported Obama, yet we seem to have missed what pushed the swing states over the line.
The key to understanding Obama’s victory is the not simply the auto-bailout, but his ability to convince people that American manufacturing is worth supporting because it is in the national interest. That it represents the future.
Take a look at his speeches. Or his adverts. Many of these were targeted at Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, used the real stories of manufacturing workers and the lessons of the bail out - contrasting them with the position of Romney who argued that the auto-industry should be left to go to the wall.
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The sad reality is we can expect many more closures similar to the collapse this morning of Australian car manufacturing supplier Autodom.
And in an industry that thrives on having parts delivered “just in time”, the impacts of such closures are going to get worse, not better.
As the number of Australian-made cars declines, so too do the chances for local suppliers to survive. Most of the 300 or so companies that make the 5000 or so parts that make up a new car must sell to all three local makers – Holden, Ford and Toyota – just to stay in business.
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We throw away last season’s clothes, older-model cars and mobile phones that are out of date. But is our disposable society starting to throw away workers?
Last week Toyota laid off 350 workers from its Altona plant in Melbourne. It did so in a way that showed a total disrespect for their dignity as people. I accept that it may have been necessary for Toyota to reduce its workforce – times are tough for manufacturing – but I do not accept that it was necessary to publicly humiliate them.
I do not accept it was necessary to frogmarch employees out of the building, in front of TV cameras. I do not accept it was necessary to label the retrenched workers as underperformers without right of reply. I question why so many members who had roles with their union were retrenched.
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Companies expand and companies contract. That’s capitalism, and it’s hard to get too angry at Toyota’s decision to sack 350 workers given the high Aussie dollar which makes it incredibly tough to sell Aussie-made cars overseas, and especially compared to the greedy banks, who dispense with families’ livelihoods in order to make huge profits even bigger.
That said, there were several ugly things about the sacking of 350 workers from Toyota’s Altona plant this week.
One was the officious way Toyota did the deed, humiliating long-serving workers with heavy-handed security guards which union leaders likened to “Nazis”. Then there was Tony Abbott, who showed zero sympathy to the workers or their families by harnessing the moment as a platform to say how the auto industry would be even worse off under the “caaaaarbon tax”.
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Reports of the big Australian-built car’s death are – as Twain quipped – an exaggeration, or at least grossly premature. But there’s no denying the patient has gone from just looking a bit poorly to possibly needing palliative care.
The little Mazda3 trounced the 5-year top seller Holden Commodore in 2011, after the big boy slid about 12 per cent in sales. And the Ford Falcon fared worse with a 36 per cent slump. Between them, they hold 81 per cent of the large car segment, with the Aussie-built Toyota Aurion owning 12 per cent – but also diving 24 per cent in sales last year.
The large car segment overall was down 21 per cent in 2011, echoing three years of slides that have seen sales move from 139,677 in 2007 to 78,077 last year.
So over that time, the pulse has dropped 44 per cent. It’s fading. And only the most evasive physician would pretend otherwise. Tell ‘em, doc – they can take it.
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