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Aussies build trains “for a living” – that’s why their standard is better than ours

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 pm, May 4th, 2010 - 33 comments
Categories: Economy, jobs, public transport - Tags: , ,

I was struck by the similar comments from Steven Joyce and Jim Quinn, Kiwirail CEO, that we should buy trains off somebody who “does these things for a living”, made in trying to  justify the lack of any attempt by Kiwirail to tender for local assembly of the new units for Auckland.

I’m not sure which one was the echo, but what I do know is that if New Zealand doesn’t also do these things for a living then we’ll never get near Australia’s standard. The Aussies have a completely different view about government purchasing, as I learnt from my years on the Industrial Supplies Office management committee in the 1990’s. They believe in Australian jobs for Australian money.

For a project like this in Australia, prospective tenderers would have to submit an Australian Industry Participation plan. It says:

The objective of an AIP Plan is to:
•    demonstrate how you will provide full, fair and reasonable opportunity to Australian industry to supply goods and services to your project; and
•    endeavour to maximise opportunities for Australian industry, especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), to participate in all aspects of the project.


AIP Plans must reflect actual or planned events. This is best done by identifying specific actions that will be undertaken to encourage Australian industry participation.

New Zealand has no such requirement. So the forty-eight Matangi units for Wellington have been designed and built  in Korea; Hyundai/Mitsui were “encouraged” to seek New Zealand participation in the $230m contract but there was no requirement for them to do so. New Zealand companies such as Fibreglass Developments and Trimtech have complained that they were given no real opportunity to participate.

That’s why Korea’s standard of living is also rapidly rising,  and about to match ours which is steadily declining.

Also contrary to what Joyce and Quinn say, the Australians make sure that their companies are included in any tender and build. Regarding the recent announcement in for 200 new trains in Queensland,  Queensland Rail says:

‘Queenslanders will build any new facilities for assembly and maintenance of the new fleet and there will be ongoing roles in construction and through life support for the fleet.

‘We will also support the creation of a competitive, nationally and internationally focused rail support services cluster, centred in Queensland.’

and the Premier weighs in:

‘The government’s goals with this tender are clear to create jobs for Queenslanders,’ Ms Bligh said.

It’s all too hard for Joyce and Quinn. But New Zealand should be as ambitious as the Aussies to make things – we might even catch up with them.


33 comments on “Aussies build trains “for a living” – that’s why their standard is better than ours”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    It’s all too hard for Joyce and Quinn. But New Zealand should be as ambitious as the Aussies to make things we might even catch up with them.

    And we’d find our trade deficit decreasing. Amazing that eh?

  2. eye saw 2

    thats far to sensible.

  3. ianmac 3

    A good answer for Quin and for Joyce would have been, “Yes. We should consider the possibility of a NZ opportunity to build these units. We will have a good look when the tendering process has been completed. Anything is possible.”
    Instead of, “No!”

  4. Jenny 4

    It strikes me that John Key’s bright and shiny idea of a cycle way instead of real jobs is not a new idea at all.

    It sounds a hell of a lot like one of those 1930s work schemes.

    After all is said and done John Key is a financier and his speciality was speculation on currency exchange fluctuations.

    It is no mistake that his government is actively sabotaging the real economy because he personally has no interest in it.

    The three parts of the neo-liberal programme are – privatisation, globalisation and financialisation.

    The first two are pretty well understood; privatisation undermined the material support for the welfare state and was bitterly opposed by the grass roots of the first world. Globalisation helped tighten the shackles of multinational control of the third world and was bitterly opposed by grass roots of the third world.

    But it is financialisation that is likely to in the end cause the most harm over the long term.

    This is because the move to make profit not from the production of real concrete value products, but from such things as derivatives and market speculation and foreign exchange dealings and other financial trickery of all sorts which caused the recent global market collapse, according to all pundits is leading to an even bigger speculative bubble followed by even more dramatic collapse.

    But the benificiarys of the financialisation of the economy, people like John Key, don’t give a damn, because they are still left holding on to all the private fortunes they are set to make during the bubble phase, while the public and the taxpayer wear the costs.

    John Key’s personal dream is to see New Zealand become a financial trading hub.

    So if our youth become unemployed and are reduced by WINZ to standing on shovels dressed in a sugar bags in some remote part of the back country digging paths for the cycle way. They can be proud that we let real industry be sacrificed to make New Zealand a financial trading hub, so that people like John Key can continue to live in mansions in Parnell safe behind high walls and enormous personal fortunes, without ever having to do any real productive work.

    • Jim Nald 4.1

      oh if u wanna extend the trajectory, it would not be illogical for things then to deteriorate from a ‘three strikes’ law to two, or even one, and from double bunking to triple ! it will be a very sad day when society descends to such a low point.

  5. prism 5

    I was shocked when a tutor at a business class I took stated that no other country in the world has risen to prosperity on the basis of agriculture rather than manufacturing as we have, and that we were only on the cusp of being a developed nation.
    The politicians don’t seem to understand strategic planning for our nation. Not being able to make very much for ourselves means that we will always being paying out for overseas firms to do it, and because we have chosen this option in the last few decades we have this national learned helplessness from politicians which they so condemn as the problem of apathy and laziness besetting beneficiaries. (Misunderstanding the situation as usual I think).

    What jobs are the young men who are often difficult yobs with anti-social tendencies going to do if there aren’t manufacturing and engineering trades for them. We need jobs, or we get more yobs, and crime and then recrimination for them not having jobs.

    A sorry state, this New Zealand, unless some politician with drive and clearsighted understanding of us as a nation that can do things, not a misty reflection of Australia, arises and ‘goes forward’ positively and thoughtfully to facilitate us to be the enterprise nation that I think Jim Bolger talked about.

  6. David Cunliffe 6

    Hi Mike – good post. Where has the ‘ambitious for New Zealand” strap line gone? They are not even ambiguous for NZ now! More like indifferent…

    This all raises questions as to whether National has any real bottle to address the fundamental issues needing to be resolved to sort out our economy in Budget 2010. Yes it must be about Kiwi jobs and creating value for NZers. No sign of that from National.

    There is a debate building on Red Alert that readers may wish to join on this. See http://blog.labour.org.nz/index.php/2010/05/04/building-to-budget-2010/

    Cheers David

    • Jim Nald 6.1

      Erm cough cough cough there are signs that National is creating jobs and creating value for themselves in their political seats.

    • prism 6.2

      David Cunliffe Got the below message when tried to use link in 11.22pm post.
      PHP has encountered an Access Violation at 7C81BD02

      • Jim Nald 6.2.1

        What does Access Violation etc mean?

        • Andrew

          generally a configuration error, there must have been an update overnight that went wrong. This error normally happens when you run PHP on IIS (windows internet application server), tho not sure if it’s exclusively a windows issue. There may be some form of memory leak, or 2 different versions of a DLL somewhere.

          • lprent

            …not sure if it’s exclusively a windows issue.

            It almost invariably means that a executable attempted to access memory using a pointer. The memory at the address it was looking at is not in a valid allocated address range for that application. The second most common is accessing a block of memory as if it was a null-terminated string and while hunting for the null terminator the pointer ran out of a allocated address block.

            You get the same errors in *nix, but because of the more fully debugged nature of open source code (more eyes, less bugs) it is much less common. Not to mention that using OLE/COM etc as a operating system binding is pretty crap. I really notice it because I’m writing c++/c# code at work in Windows, and writing c++/c#/php at home in Linux. The windows code literally has unexplained non-repeatable crashes – I usually reboot and the issue goes away. My linux boxes don’t get rebooted for months.

            Basically I used to get that kind of junk on the WIMP stack (Windows/IIS/MySQL/PHP) all of the time when running this site. I seldom get it on the LAMP (Linux/Apache2/MySQL/PHP) stack.

            • Andrew

              Nice explanation, thanks. I stopped using PHP about 7 years ago when i decided i would go C# only … no VB.NET either thanks, that stuff is just nasty! :). C++ hasn’t been looked at since uni days which is a shame as i enjoy it.

              • lprent

                We’re pretty well off-topic. But I like php provided I write it as a programmer would rather than a web developer (ie HTML embedded in code rather than the other way around). It is pretty tight (unlike python), utterly reliable, and completely cross-platform. Pretty nice for CLI utilities as well and not bad at embedding in as a soft language inside C++ using the API entry points on the .dll/.so.

                C# is ok, but even with mono isn’t that portable which is why it isn’t a language of choice for me. It has far too many different ‘flavours’ at the framework level. Most of my C# for instance is using WPF in a way that requires windows + .Net 3.5 SP1 to be effective. In Linux I’m pretty well restricted to .Net 2.0 equivalents. I could use Silverlight on windows + mac. But moonlight on linux is a pretty different beast. etc etc.

                It is like being back on browsers before they standardised the strict mode and the css support.

                At least they seem to have fixed most of the memory leakage issues in C# these days that drove me nuts while they were developing the earlier versions of C#/.Net

      • sam 6.2.2

        The Red Alert website seems to have gone down- hopefully it will be back up soon…

    • just saying 6.3

      I tried to join in the debate, (twice today) David, but there was no submit button. I would have let the red alert website know but couldn’t find anywhere on it to comment on my inability to comment. So I’m telling you here. Sorry I’m a bit off-topic LPrent.

      [lprent: Thats ok – communicate where you can submit 😈 ]

  7. Jenny 7

    Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi received widespread coverage for his claims that Goldman Sachs had repeatedly profited by inflating unsustainable financial bubbles. Including the now world famous description of this huge finance company as

    “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”.

    Hedge funds, derivatives, etc. all resulting in “deleveraging” of the real economy.

    How the Bubble Machine works

    Because of John Key’s preference for financialisation, over a real economy with real jobs, and real wealth creation. I would like to paraphrase Matt Taibbi, to describe John Key as “a baby (faced) vampire squid wrapped around the face of New Zealand, sticking his blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

    • Jenny 7.1


      Rather than just bemoan this process and it’s obvious dismal outcome. I would like to encourage every reader of The Standard to get behind the RMTU’s campaign to get this vital public transport infrastructure built here in this country.

      After all, jobs in public transport and rail are green jobs, breaking our reliance on the private automobile and the fossil fuel industry.

      If the RMTU’s campaign fails it will be another brick in the wall of the wall of the financialisation of our economy.

  8. tc 8

    Predictable from Joyce and the former Courier Post general manager who swapped one SOE for another…….real world experience anybody ?

    Nat’s leading by example again……..spurning opportunities for upskilling/job/industry growth, can’t have that now can we.

    A pragmatic gov’t would take the chance to at least make it look like they care…..not this mob.

  9. Salsy 9

    Even in the USA now there is a brand shiny new term called “Onshoring” – Wake up National

  10. jcuknz 10

    The problem comes from the indiscrimient breeding by homo sapien which is producing more people than the world can cope with. So instead of productive jobs there are are the unemployed and the speculators .. the beaurocrats pushing paper around at all levels and sectors of the ‘ecconomy’. Labour think the answer is more beaurocrats, National want more sugarbag clad fodder. Labour seek higher wages, National lower. In the desire for better standards of living we seem to have priced ourselves off the market. “More More More” so mankind cries on its way to annilation unless it comes to its senses and tailors itself to what the world can handle.

    • Jenny 10.1

      As an excuse for doing nothing this incomprehensible, confused, emotive babbling, with no internal logic, let alone reference to the real world, with the inevitable negative malthusian name checking. Is a very poor excuse for rebuttal,

      Is this the best you can do, jcuknz?

  11. RedLogix 11

    I was talking first hand with a senior engineer from the Woburn workshops last night and he confirms that at least 80% of the EMU’s could easily be built here.

    The only components he really saw an issue with would be the electric traction motors, their associated controls, and casting the wheels (which is a highly specialised business.) The rest he thought could be done here in NZ without too much trouble at all.

  12. brian 12

    it looks to me like steven joyce given the choice of creating wealth in nz and creating debt for nz has already chosen the debt option
    and as for that useless nz rail fella
    why does he still have a job
    could you imagine any major corporation being happy with management who dont want more work

  13. Alexandra 13

    Phil Goff was great this morning on nat radio, talking about Key’s flip flop on our troops in Afganistan. He clearly articulated the fickle nature of Key’s decision making on matters which impact on our national identity. He has also highlighted Labours position in regards to mining on schedule 4 land. Putting aside the ideological motives of the nats, this issue illustrates the governments sheer laziness. A transparent contracting process and the work involved in making it happen would require some focused energy by ministers, including engagement with industry stakeholders and meaningful engagement with unions. Labours alternative approach on this issue will resonate with the public in the same way as the mining debate, and Afghanistan.

  14. Robb 14

    Why is this an issue now. Labour & the Greens had the chance with the commuter units currently being built in Korea for the Wellington Network. They could have said lets build them here but it didn’t happen. I’d love to see this sort of industry here but how would the industry survive once the trains were made in other words how could we effectively sell other trains overseas when other countries such as China & Korea can pop them out at a great rate of knots. We would have to retool as I think we are a narrower gauge than other countries and we couldn’t sell to Europe or Japan as they have high speed networks a specialist area and they have plenty.

    • RedLogix 14.1

      Labour & the Greens had the chance with the commuter units currently being built in Korea for the Wellington Network

      The contracting process for the purchase of the Matangi units was underway well before Kiwirail was brought back into govt control… basically the timing was off.

      but how would the industry survive once the trains were made

      Sure the business would be lumpy, but there is always on-going maintenance and refurbishment to keep the core business going; winning overseas contracts would just be the icing on the cake.

      We would have to retool as I think we are a narrower gauge than other countries

      The ‘Cape Gauge’ we use is common in Australia and Japan and a few places elsewhere. Besides the rail width is hardly a big ‘re-tooling’ deal…there’s only the width of the axles and bogies involved.

      Building trains is well within our capacity.

  15. how could we effectively sell other trains overseas when other countries such as China & Korea can pop them out at a great rate of knots.

    Customise them, pimp them out, luxuriate them…create some desirable point of difference.

    if we can build luxury yachts why not traincars ?

    So whats the deal with the internal fit out for these new cars ? Surely thats something NZ businesses can do ? It’s not like we’re short of excellent design and application skills.

  16. Hamish Gray 16

    Why the rehash of the same topic from the other day?

    In any case, the AIPP is mandatory, but also, ultimately pointless. Tenderers can complete them and fill out each box with a random number they pluck from thin air and their AIPP is still compliant (eg. I’m going to employ 200,000 locals to build this tin shed). It is political posturing only to satiate unions. No teeth whatsoever.

    [lprent: Perhaps you should read the about to gain an understanding on how this site operates rather than waffling about something you clearly don’t understand.

    It operates as a cooperative, and there are multiple different authors with varying viewpoints who express themselves differently at different times. So you’ll often get posts on the same topic by different authors with with anywhere from a slightly to wildly different viewpoint.

    You don’t have to read or comment on the post, that is your choice. However attempting to tell us how to run our site is a troll behaviour – see the policy for our usual responses.

    The generic answer is that if you don’t like something about how this site is run, then you’re always free to start your own blog. But attempting to tell us how to run the site merely puts you on the moderators shit-list. Repeated attempts will cause us to assist you in having time to create your own site by banning you from here. ]

    • Hamish Gray 16.1

      Iprent – thanks for the clarification, but I think your response is a gross overreaction. I’m not attempting to tell you how to run the site – I’m questioning why two such similar topics are started within 48 hours of each other.

      You explained the process, fine. But to go label me a “troll” and threaten me with banning for one question is a little extreme, no? Or is me questioning this a bannable offense?

      • lprent 16.1.1

        My role around here as sysop is to keep the site running efficiently. One part of that is to provide as a moderator, the boundaries around the comments section.

        I am one of the extremists (aka moderators) in the comments section to ensure that we don’t get flames etc. My preference is that if I have to go to the effort of reacting and writing notes, then I should massively over-react. It saves my time further down the track (and that is mostly what I’m interested in).

        My note didn’t say that you were a troll. I said that you’d exhibited a behaviour I associated with the trolls. Your comment was framed as telling us what we should do.

        Basically you got what is for me a very mild warning to ensure that there wasn’t a repeat.

  17. Hamish 17

    And the funny thing is Aussie has ordered 620 trains from – guess where – China!

  18. Jum 18

    Sitting side by side, there they were Joyce and David Bennett, yet were they singing from the same song sheet in Parliament today?

    No they were not!

    Instead, we had yesterday Joyce telling us that we were too stupid to build carriages, something we’d been doing already. We had the costings, the passion and the New Zealanders wanting a job, but no said Joyce, cleverly omitting to mention that not even China builds the engines. We intended to import the engine. All very sensible stuff. No said Joyce. He doesn’t want Kiwis to have faith in themselves.

    Yet here was Bennett, yelling like a mad thing today in Parliament, saying no to the redundancy package. Labour needed to have faith in Kiwis.


    What they are both though is totally lacking in any sort of plan, or care for New Zealanders’ children’s futures.

    What a sad bunch of losers. The tipping point is nigh.

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