DEATH OF OZ MADE

Reporter: Clare Brady

http://au.news.yahoo.com/today-tonight/latest/article/-/12732696/death-of-australian-made/

As the cost of living rises, it seems more and more shoppers are looking for the cheapest option on their shelves, and not the most patriotic.

And when it comes to price, goods made in Australia simply can't compete with their cheaper overseas rivals.

But if we're getting products cheaper now, how much will we pay for it later?

The 'Australian Made' trademark once sat like a proud tattoo on our Australian products.

Now it's turned 25, and in that time a lot has changed.

People are pushing aside patriotism and going for price, and now the kangaroo is sadly almost retail road kill against the competition.

However according to Australian Made chief Ian Harrison says "this is not the end of Australian made. I mean Australia makes a range of tremendously valuable products."

Harrison pushes the quality point, and it may be true, but when our most consistent campaigner says Australian brands are almost done and dusted, it's time for concern.

Dick Smith, the tireless campaigner for Australian made products, is waving a red flag - especially to the rag trade.

"If we just want the cheapest, it will come from the biggest companies. All the local Australian companies will go out of business," Smith said.

"I think when it comes to retailing, my suggestions to all of the retailers is move to China and just do everything on the internet without paying any tax. I mean you'd be an absolute fool not to. It's crazy to have shops and employ Australians here, when most Aussies just want to buy from overseas without paying the GST, which is necessary to pay for our nurses, our hospitals, our doctors, all of the important things that taxes are needed. We can avoid it by importing from overseas, so why wouldn't you?"

Kmart openly runs a manufacturing arm out of China, where it does its direct sourcing and cuts out the middle man to stay competitive.

Australian fashion label Kookai designs its clothes here, but they're sewn offshore in Fiji.

Rob Cromb owns the brand, and he insists he'd never take the entire operation away from Australia.

"We've produced our fabrics in Australia because the quality is exceptional," he said.

Cromb flies the Australian flag, and has successfully sued cheap knockoffs of his brand, but he's not fooled by loyalty alone.

"It's lovely to buy things that are Australian made, but those days are really gone. Consumers today are more interested in getting value for money," Cromb said.

And here's a tricky one on Australia Day: Coles asked companies like Arnott's and Kraft to create special Australian packaging for today.

"The Arnott's shapes have done an Australia Day shape, where it's shaped like Australia, which has actually been their best seller at Coles for the last week or so," Jim Cooper from Coles said.

They're made here, but Arnott's is American owned. Vegemite's Kraft is also owned in the US.

Regardless, Cooper maintains it is patriotic.

"It's been a trend for quite a while that a lot of Australian companies are owned by large multi-nationals, which has been a fact of life. I think the key thing is in main these companies are still manufacturing locally, employing Australians, so they're still contributing to the Australian economy, which I think is important," he said.

Today many of our once Aussie brands are a long way from home, right down to the sauce on our pies.

Australian Retailers' Association's Russell Zimmerman believes staying viable is all about being affordable.

"I think in the economic times we're in, when people have got utility bills and cost increases that are outstripping their wages, is that they have to be a bit practical, and they have to look to the alternative options, and get things to the price that they can afford. I think it's a matter of being practical for what you can or can't afford," Zimmerman said.

Online shopping, greater global choice, competition like never before are all stealing patriotism straight from the Australian pouch.

"We need to be innovative," Harrison said.

"We need to be more aware of productivity, we need to focus on exports. Our manufacturers just have to work their way through what is a pretty tough time," he concluded.

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