The pain of 1200 workers who learnt today they have no future at Ford’s Victorian manufacturing plants is palpable. They are innocent victims of globalisation, and of a large parent company which is making something the punters don’t want. The workers have been trained to do a job that is no longer viable in this country.

Governments put a price on that pain. They pumped hundreds of millions of dollars — that is, bribes — into private, increasingly uneconomic businesses to keep those workers in employment. Julia Gillard did it again today: a $40 million package ($30 million from the feds, $10 million from the Victorian government) to “support the economic development and diversification of the Geelong and northern Melbourne regions”. She claimed, still, that car manufacturing has a future in this country.

To those 1200 workers, to their families, to the businesses up and down the supply chain that rely on Ford’s work, the mounting bribes may seem well spent. We can sympathise with that view.

But federal governments are supposed to serve the national interest. The subsidies don’t make sense. They never have.

The loss of jobs is collateral in a truth politicians like Gillard will try to take to their political graves — car manufacturing in Australia is dead. The lie — and the neglect to facilitate the transition of the workforce away from unviable manufacturing much earlier — is the greatest disservice to those sacked today.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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