Whyalla, the third largest town in South Australia, has a population of 22,000. It’s a town devoted to serving one South Australian steelworks, Arrium Ltd. Arrium has called in the administrators. Do you save the town?
Australia has lost 164,000 manufacturing jobs in the course of eight years. It’s lost Holden. It’s lost Toyota. It’s lost Alcoa. It’s New Zealand 1990s redux.
Korda Mentha, overseeing the Arrium restructure, commented “The commitment from everyone – from the banks to the suppliers to the state and federal governments – is to try to get some solutions for Whyalla. It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be quick.”
Observing from New Zealand, even the idea that Korda Mentha, the banks, the state, the town and the company could work together on saving a major town due to commercial collapse is bewilderingly unimaginable. In New Zealand, the closest comparison in the last three terms is the Sky City pokies-for-convention-centre deal.
Some on the extremes of right and left may argue that to save the village, you have to destroy the village. I think we should expect more from government, and each other, than that. Whyalla may be an Australian turning point in the debate.