Aussie Made

Reporter: Bryan Seymour

Pacific Brands managed to keep secret its plan to sack nearly 2,000 workers for nearly a year. Yet, the big secret, at least to its customers, is even more disturbing.

We know their iconic brands like Bonds, Berlei and Hard Yakka have mostly been made overseas, but did you know that for eight years, Pacific Brands has also been mostly foreign-owned.

All those years, all those true blue stars, the Aussie sweat of hard yakka, the fair dinkum scenery and national pride. For the last eight years it's been cynical revenue raising for Pacific Brands' foreign masters.

"It shows the disregard that foreign companies would have for Australians where as if you're Australian-owned you really understand what the value of those people are to your business from the bottom to the top" says Lynne Wilkinson.

You may not know that in 2001, Pacfic Brands was snapped up by private equity funds CVC Asia and Catalyst Investments. Three years later, they floated the company on the stock exchange, fleecing 73% return on their investment and loading the company with massive debt.

Today it's major shareholders include JP Morgan, HSBC and Citicorp.

"I didn't expect it at all. It's the last thing we thought of. There's a slight decrease in sales and a lot of phone calls regarding it" says Tim.

Tim Niewenhouse runs an online clothing retail site called Down Under Guys Gear. He says Pacific Brands' decision to sack 1,850 workers is turning customers off their underwear brands like Bonds.

"We didn't think they affected them at first. However over the last month or so sales have dropped slightly and we found that people have been ringing up asking whether there are any other Australian brands they can switch to at this stage. They didn't want to use Bonds anymore" says Tim.

The only ones who know exactly what's happening to Bonds, Rio, Holeproof, Berlei, King Gee etc is Pacific Brands itself and they're not telling us. They've hired a political lobby group to do all of their PR and seem totally consumed now with making more money, rather than making more here.

The problem for consumers is knowing just what is made and owned by Australians.

"It's really about where the quality is and you'd have to say, I mean I tried to buy some underpants for my husband the other day, four pairs, they all had the same label size on them but they were all four different sizes, so you have to say quality control is not the same" says Lynne.

Ausbuy CEO Lynne Wilkinson runs a not for profit group dedicated to promoting Aussie products.

"Three times a year Ausbuy produces the Ausbuy Guide which I distributed nationally, we distribute it through supermarkets nationally, however it lists absolutely everything that anyone can purchase in both goods and services."

And the need to buy Australian made has never been greater. At the moment, we still charge a 17.5% tariff on clothing imports, but in January that falls to 10%, making overseas items even cheaper than the few remaining, true blue Aussie brands.

"We have two brands, Mojo and Hiswear, there's a very small amount of stock and of course they're going to have to move overseas as well to survive. And Bonds as well has some stuff still made in Australia - singlets and mostly briefs now. Hipsters are mostly from overseas. But some of the brands are still here" says Tim.

It all makes the success of swimwear icon Aussie Bum even more remarkable. They're turning over $20m a year through international online sales with a 100% Aussie owned and made product.

"It doesn't say made in China and the fact we're successful overseas is because we're Australian and people do want to buy Australian made. They couldn't give a rat's arse about China at this stage, they're worried about their own backyard and that's what we should be, worried about our country, not about sending jobs overseas" says Sean Ashby from Aussie Bum.

"Well, exactly and Aussie Bums, you might think you're spending more money up front but at the end of the day Australian owned is going to last you four years whereas the cheap and cheerfuls that are imported might last you a year if you're lucky" adds Lynne. "When you've got the choice to support Australian owned, then you're keeping the decisions, the jobs and the profits here."Some Australian owned brands...

Clothing

Aussiebum, Ken Done, Mambo, Mooks, Sass & Bide, Diesel Australia, Mountain Designs, Seafolly, Tasmanian Clothing, Crystal Bears, Country Tradition, Colorado, Akubra, RM Williams, Beare & Ley, Country Classics Collection, red Dog, Antz Pantz

Food

Ardmona, Bakers Own, Baker's Delight, Brumbies, Leaning Tower, Vogels, Big Sister, Admiral, Anchor, Goulburn Valley, Sanitarium, Bega, Dick Smith, Bertocchi, Bulla, Sameway, Wheylite, Ashgrove, Australian Farmhouse, Devondale, Capel, Farmers Blend, Westons, Mahatma, Riviana, Sunrice, Sunlong, Sunwhite, Black Swan, Crisco, CSR, Beerenberg, Big Ben, Four n Twenty, Herbert Adams, Mrs Macs, Logan Farm, Arriba, Ballantyne, Haighs, Carman's, Honey Weets,

Household Products

Proklean, Enviro Clean, Blast, Britewash, Planet ark, So Gentle, Citro Clean, Bathroom Sparkle, Dominant, Speedee, Tonizone, Shower Power, Jiffe, Flare Sensitive, Ozkleen, True Blue, Esteme, Pascoes, Rainbow, Rainbow Pacific, Hone Zone, Pacific Breeze, Waproo.

Cold Drinks

Appletiser, Harvey Fresh, BerrySweet, Crusta, Aussie Gold, Sunshine, Juice Pops, Aqua Pura, Bickfords, Frantell, Waterfords, Vaqua, Crystal Spring, Mount Franklin, Nippy's, Jolt, Buderim, LA Cola, Staminade, Wimmers, Carlton United, Cascade, Fosters, Matilda Bay, Redback , Reschs, Bondi Blonde, Jamieson.

Downunder Guys Gear DUGG

www.dugg.com.au

Aussie Bum

www.aussiebum.com.au

AUSBUY - Australian Owned and Made

www.ausbuy.com.au