So General Motors needs 600 fewer workers at its Adelaide plant – what excellent news.

While various politicians and unions fall over themselves to make a mess of this achievement, the workers themselves can rejoice in the facts that: 1) There is a national labor shortage with unemployment at its lowest level in a generation; 2) The plant happens to be in a marginal federal seat tenuously held by the coalition, so extra money will be thrown at them; 3) It’s an election year, so more money will be thrown at them; and 4) they can enjoy generous voluntary redundancy payments.

As usual, the 600 jobs are a great example of Pascoe’s Law of House Burning: If your house burns down, quickly set fire to as many of your neighbours’ as possible or no-one will care. With 600 in a marginal electorate, John Howard is already promising an extra $1.5 million on top of the usual generous enticements the employees are being offered to quit. The many more workers who have lost manufacturing jobs in Fairfield in Sydney’s west have received nothing extra from the government at all because they weren’t all employed at the one place and it’s a safe Labor seat.

As Holden says and everyone should know, it needs a strong export business to remain viable as a manufacturer in Australia. And that means a highly efficient and productive plant. Fewer workers screwing nuts on bolts and more investment in capital equipment means greater productivity – which is what Kevin Rudd says Australia needs.

The union wants a little more protectionism – ignoring the reality that we have enjoyed our greatest ever jobs boom while protection has been reduced.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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