Publication Details

Kelly, D. J. (2011). ‘Once upon a time, when Australia had a steel industry …’. The Conversation, (24 August)

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The Conversation


Once upon a time, 30 years ago, when we still thought the steel industry was an endless and bottomless well for economic growth and employment, many of us also believed in industry policy, corporate responsibility to communities, and the right to stay in the same place and space as long as we wanted.

We were happily unaware that “restructuring” would become inevitably intertwined with “job losses” or that the inheritors of the Kingswood (which many of us drove back then) would soon be driving cars neither built in Australia nor made from Australian steel.

But that was 30 years ago. Shortly after, the Australian steel industry began to spin into crisis, an early home-grown casualty of the globalisation of production.

Indeed, the crisis should probably have happened sooner but in those days there was a fair investment in Australian steel production and the low Aussie dollar meant good steel export prices – the US even accused Australia of dumping cheap steel – and profit levels were generally accepted at lower rates than today.