The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly raised concern from the community in terms of our nation's reliance on foreign manufacturing and products. The pandemic has slowed the flow of imports that local industries rely on, thus resulting in delays and price rises for goods. The commentary has also focused on the fact that local manufacturing has taken a beating in recent years resulting in job losses and ultimately the decline in local experience and expertise.
NSW has a proud history of manufacturing public transport such as buses, trains, trams and ferries. For years the manufacturing of these modes of transport was the underpinning of local communities. Local transport manufacturing presented job opportunities in fields such as designing, metal fabricating, spray-painting, upholstery and many other specialist industries.
In the early 1990s during my studies as a Technological and Design teacher I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the manufacturing of trains in NSW. During my studies I saw the manufacturing of Tangara train carriages at Goninan Industries Broadmeadow, Newcastle, which employed thousands of local workers. The construction of the Tangara train carriages also lent itself to other local industries in the manufacturing of stainless steel, aluminium, glass, materials and electrical components.
Closer to Fairfield the railway yards at Lidcombe/Granville were the manufacturing hub for the construction of railway bogies - the train's drive system and guidance mechanism. This alone supported specialist industries like the construction of axles, suspensions and braking systems in Western Sydney for generations.
For well over 50 years NSW State Transit Buses were manufactured by Custom Coaches in and around Guildford, Smithfield and Villawood. The construction of NSW State Transit buses saw many local families work in the industry for generations, supporting not only local jobs but local businesses as well. Slowly but surely the collapse of the once mighty Custom Coaches at Villawood was due to the decision made by the current Liberals and Nationals Government to purchase buses from interstate and overseas.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian was the Transport Minister responsible for making this decision in 2014 so it comes as no surprise that this government is hell bent on purchasing foreign products rather than supporting local industries and jobs. The recent comments made by Premier Berejiklian that: "Australia and New South Wales are not good at building trains, that's why we have to purchase them" is downright offensive to any worker that has ever produced not only trains but other modes of transport for this state.
It is not hard to see the disastrous outcomes of the Liberals and Nationals decision to purchase foreign transport - trams for Sydney's light rail manufactured in Spain, trains from Korea that are too wide for the tunnels and ferries built in China and Indonesia manufactured using asbestos components and being too high to fit under the bridges along the Parramatta River. So rather than saving a buck, the cost of these projects has well and truly blown out when remedial works to ensure the modes of transport up to NSW standards are considered.
Enough is enough. It's time to get NSW back on track manufacturing good quality trains, buses, trams and ferries. NSW can do it, we have seen it before.