We are sentimental but no Australian brand is going to survive simply because it is Australian.
No Aussie brands are more ingrained in the national consciousness than Qantas or Holden but the flying kangaroo is facing extinction as a long-haul, full-service carrier within 10 years and GM Holden may not even last that long.
You don't have to look far to see why. This week, I'm flying to London and needed a one-way fare. Checking the Qantas website was once my benchmark and my habit but I was reminded again why it ceased to be so.
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On the Qantas website, I was offered a one-way economy fare of $1558, premium economy for $3278 and business class $7547.
The last time I flew Qantas long-haul economy, it was bad and I want this time to get to London without an aching neck and sleep deprivation. So, economy was out.
I've also tried the premium economy and won't again. As for Qantas business-class fares, they are out of my range as I pay my own airfares.
A few clicks on the internet and a new world of value was available: Emirates was offering a one-way business-class ticket for $3757 with flat-bed seats, five-star service (I've tried it before), a convenient late-evening departure time, business-class lounges, a limo service to the airport and a limo service from the airport to my hotel in London (blessed relief after 26 hours of travel).
All this for $479 more than the price of Qantas's glorified economy class and less than half the price of Qantas business class.
For almost the same fare, I could have flown business class on China Southern Airlines, which is developing a ''Canton route'' between Australia and London via its hub in Guangzhou - while Qantas cuts back its famed ''kangaroo route'' to London because it is not making money.
There was also a competitive business-class fare from Etihad Airways, with which I've enjoyed superb service in the past, but it was more expensive and the timing was less convenient.
Etihad and Emirates are booming, taking Australians to Europe via their hubs in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Dubai. Abu Dhabi. Guangzhou. It's a new world for Australian travellers.
It was no contest. I booked Emirates. So, another Qantas frequent flyer will be going overseas without a backward glance at the flying kangaroo.
As I was writing this, a post popped up on my wife's Facebook page and she sent it on. It was from a friend, Ella, who wrote: ''Dear Qantas, do not send me an email promising me a sale when it's not. Your price was $200 above what I can get on Webjet … and travelling when I like, not between May and June. Get a grip, Qantas.''
These structural pressures were the backdrop to the tensions that exploded last year when Qantas was subject to rolling industrial action, furious public abuse from three of its unions and a lockout and fleet grounding by management.
The turmoil has since given way to collective agreements but the structural problem remains. My understanding is that in order to buy industrial peace, Qantas has locked itself into restrictions on the number of casual staff it can hire.
This may buy industrial peace but it will not buy survival for Qantas international, which is unprofitable, according to management. Qantas may have an indelible brand name, a dominant position in the domestic market and a reliable record of profitability but the profit is coming from the Qantas Group, not the glamorous long-haul Qantas flagships.
The company will survive and can expand and prosper but the full-service, long-haul flying kangaroo we grew up with may not be around.
Then there is Holden. For that matter, there is the entire Australian car manufacturing industry. Surely its future lies in making specialised parts for global markets, not entire cars for a small and impossibly crowded open marketplace?
For decades, Holden enjoyed more than 50 per cent of the market in Australia. Last year, GM Holden's market share was 12.8 per cent. In January, sales of the Holden Commodore were the worst monthly sales yet, down 18 per cent from the previous January and continuing a long-term downward drift. GM Holden also announced it was cutting 100 jobs from its plant in Adelaide.
It was not alone. Toyota announced that it was cutting 350 manufacturing jobs at its two plants in Melbourne. Ford reached an agreement with the Gillard government to receive $34 million in subsidies.
How much subsidy is a car-making job worth? What all three of these car-makers have in common are generous and unsustainable labour costs, padded by government subsidy.
The GM Holden collective agreement is a case in point. Over the past seven years it has delivered a cumulative wage increase of 29 per cent, an average of more than 4 per cent per year - a real increase over inflation.
The agreement also obliges GM Holden to pay generous redundancy benefits and is generous in numerous other ways. So, too, are the collective agreements made by Ford and Toyota.
Providing generous wages and conditions is intrinsically laudable but not if it compromises the survival of the enterprise. This is exactly what we have with the Australian car manufacturing industry, which wants more and continued government subsidies.
The workplace agreements at GM Holden, Ford and Toyota commit to wages and redundancy obligations the companies could not afford under present market conditions were it not for transfer payments from the federal government. What unreality is the Gillard government propping up?
It raises the question - why are Australian taxpayers being asked to make sacrifices, via subsidising higher costs, that the local auto-makers and their staff have not themselves been willing to make?
Members of the public are already voting, with their wallets.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/aussie-icons-now-species-in-danger-20120205-1qzm1.html#ixzz1lWUOgVJ9