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Corby's rant: the Toyota blame game

By Stephen Corby, 14 Feb 2014 Opinion

The Toyota blame game

History is written by the winners, we’re told, but it is just as clearly rewritten by the losers

History is written by the winners, we’re told, but it is just as clearly rewritten by the losers.

Bill Shorten has been taking a big HB pencil to the annals of recent history this week by blaming the Abbott Government for the end of locally built motor vehicles, and the loss of many thousands of jobs.

“Even the Australian car industry could not survive the wilful neglect of the Abbott government,'” he bemoaned, warning of an “economic tsunami” that the government was wilfully wreaking on the working families of our fair nation.

This – and lots of other teeth-gnashing – came after Toyota’s stunningly unsurprising announcement that it, too, would cease local production come 2017.

The world’s largest car company may have mentioned something about the fact that the Australian dollar’s strength was killing them, and that we make far too few cars here to be relevant on a global scale, but Shorten wasn’t listening at the time, and what would they know anyway.

One of the many places that Shorten’s argument falls down is that the rot was most definitely well under way back when he was in power, so to blame a government that’s been in power for far less than a year is drawing a particularly long bow, even for a politician.

Toyota was, let’s face it, probably looking at leaving as soon as Ford decided to pull out, which happened last year, under the sunny gaze of Gillard and Co. The Japanese were pretty much done for sure when Holden joined the leaving party, and from that point on the horse had bolted. Abbott could have toured the country in a Camry, and lined up and shot as many union workers as his little heart desires and it wouldn’t have made a scrap of difference to old Akio Toyoda.

Because the fact is, the problems go back way further, and if you want to know who is to blame, well, I am. You are. We are, Australians. All of us. We’ve been abandoning locally built cars for imported vehicles for many years, in a gradual trickle that soon became a flood.

Not, I suspect, because Commodores, Falcons and Camrys were rubbish, but more because we’ve all become a bit up ourselves, or many of us have, and we’re frankly a bit embarrassed to be seen in a car built by a lot of blokes called Bruce.

We’ve been sold on the idea that buying a Golf – the people’s car in Europe, rather than the slightly haughty Euro-tinged wundercar it’s seen as here – makes you just that little bit more moneyed than your neighbour.

That’s not to say Golf’s not a great car, because it is, but I’ve long suspected there are large swathes of the market out there who buy on reputation and brand, rather than quality. And the brand of Australia – in car terms and in a lot of other ways – has been a bit on the nose with the locals for years.

Don’t get me wrong; Abbott is being no less ludicrous when he blames the unions for making Toyota go (again, has he actually heard what Toyota said about its reasoning?), but he has a barrow to push, and will cash in on the misfortune of thousands of motor industry workers to do so. Just like Bill.

It’s just a shame the politicians won’t all agree to stop producing local content in 2017 as well.