FACING THE FUTURE WITH HONESTY

It is almost twelve years since I settled in Adelaide and I am amazed how the past has linked my new home to my former birthplace, Sunderland, UK.

Firstly I have followed the progress of the salvage of the clipper “City of Adelaide” which brought free settlers to South Australia in the late 1800’s.She was built in 1864 in my home port not three miles from where I lived. I wait with anticipation of her arrival to be restored to her former glory at Port Adelaide in 2014.

In the 1950’s Sunderland was noted to be the largest shipyard town in the world, sadly today not one yard remains open; reasons for their demise range from economic rationalism , industrial unrest , the growth of globalisation and a general lack of planning for its future.

Twenty five years after the above events on the other side of the world history seems to be repeating itself as the iconic Australian car maker “Holden” announces it is closing down is operations in 2017.

Lessons can certainly be learned from the closure of the shipyards, government was very slow to act and build new opportunities for the industry’s workforce. A blind obsession gripped people that nothing should change and life would go on regardless somehow there would be a rebirth of traditional industries, of course that never happened.

This led to a regional depression which some would say has not totally loosened its grip although finally after twenty five years there are signs regeneration is occurring after innovative measures have been implemented.

In recent years the loss of a number of industries in South Australia has brought with it a rather negative atmosphere not helped by politicians and eminent figures wanting to keep the status quo choosing to avoid the stark truth that the state requires inevitable structural change if it is to prosper.

One must feel for the hundreds of workers who will lose their jobs having dedicated most of their lives to the automotive industry but again like those in the UK shipyards their plight can be pinpointed to some of the same factors namely a lack of reality and vision by all parties.

The real truth being over a long period we have failed to educate and convince the population that change will inevitably happen and the consequences will not always be favourable to the individual or communities and adjustments in thinking needs to be made. In today’s global market some of our industries are simply not competitive and to continue to perpetrate the myth they can be saved does the Australian public a great disservice, all sides of the debate need to display a degree of honesty something to date which has been in short supply.

One could be accused of heresy given the gloom that has greeted Holden’s decision but this should be seen as a golden opportunity to create an opportunity for the state to create a vibrant environment provided any federal assistance money is wisely used; furthermore it is the perfect time for the general population to play its part in building a more positive mindset in the state, it will not be easy but to continue on our current path will lead to further misery. For those in the community who still champion Colonel Light’s vision I am sure the great man would be supportive in developing a new sustainable plan for our future.

PS It is ironic given the “Holden” announcement the revival in the industrial fortunes of Sunderland has now been fuelled by the introduction of a very large car plant producing small cars who are now the largest single employer in the city.