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The Australian Companies Institute (Ausbuy) is a not-for-profit; non-political organisation that encourages Australians to support Australian owned and made products and services, so that the jobs and profits stay in Australia and the decisions are made by Australians.
History and background
Ausbuy was founded in 1991 by Harry Wallace as a result of his family business of 120 years lost to foreign imports dumped in Australia to gain market shares. His company was only one example of this as more and more companies have been forced to sell out to foreign interests, and foreign governments subsidise their producers to sell cheaply into the Australian market in competition with Australian own companies who do not enjoy that level of government support.
After World War II Australia faced the problem of having an underdeveloped manufacturing base, which left it dependent on overseas supplies. There was a realization that this situation, combined with Australia’s geographic isolation, made it vulnerable. This led to the decision being made to build up manufacturing capability. The aftermath of war provided opportunities to recruit skilled workers from Europe and Australia was able to establish capacity behind the protection of a tariff wall. It was obvious that this wall had to be reduced but the rate of reduction ran well ahead of Australia's increasing ability to compete in a global market. The justification of this policy was that it portrayed Australia as a good global citizen and, at the same time, reduced inflationary pressures. The costs have been high: Australia’s foreign debt has skyrocketed, factories have closed and well paid skilled jobs in factories have been replaced by unskilled jobs in the service industries.
Australia has effectively exported jobs overseas and Australia's foreign debt exceeds A$600 billion and is growing. We simply do not produce more than we use. Australia has been living on borrowed time, and Australians have stopped talking about productivity and value adding. For example, Australia exports raw materials and Australia's unique fine wool, but then imports them back at a higher value. Free trade agreements have been signed by Australia, which further expose what manufacturers it has left, and then Australian governments bolster strategic industries to save jobs. Australia is recognised as a "clever", innovative and productive country, and it needs Australian governments and consumers to appreciate and support what is unique to this country. The international trend of globalization has been matched domestically with the rise of the mega store concept of retailing. Large supermarkets as well as warehouses have their selling policies based on anytime, everywhere, everything the same, which means their procurement policies are centrally driven; they demand bulk orders from specific price competitive producers and farmers nor do these retail giants acknowledge local peculiarities and set a priority to Made in Australia.
In its magazine Choice of January 1987 the Australian Consumers' Association advised consumers to Buy Australian by all means when the quality was equal and the price comparable to imported products. Nevertheless, it is notable given that Choice is well regarded as an impartial source of information for Australian consumers, the Australian Consumers' Association refused to make a commitment to favour an Australian product over a better product from overseas. This could be classified as a typical means of moral suasion, which can be seen as benevolent compulsion, or making others conform without enforcing rules directly. It is also termed simply suasion (in Japan it is known as window guidance), it has been used to persuade consumers and institutions to keep to official guidelines. The moral aspect stems from pressing on the targets of the suasion their moral responsibility to operate in a way that is consistent with furthering the national good. In the United States it is known as jawboning - it means exercising the persuasive power of talk rather than legislation. In countries experiencing economic decline, especially those with a high unemployment level and trade deficit, consumers are urged to buy products made in their own country to help create jobs, assist in defeating unemployment and to avoid import penetration. Sometimes it is a so-called war against unemployment where policy makers like to raise an appeal to patriotic behavior, shifting the responsibility of employment and the level of high import penetration towards consumers. Ultimately a successful moral suasion campaign which reduces import penetration significantly can be seen as a tax on imports with the potential to increase unemployment in the import sector as a result of decreasing demand for imports. The lower supply of the Australian dollar may cause it to be of higher value in the foreign exchange markets, which obviously leads to a tax on exports, or consequently employment of Australians by Australian manufacturers producing goods for overseas markets will reduce. Furthermore, given that consumers are shifting their demand for consumer goods to domestic products, it still remains a dilemma whether the retailers and manufacturers of domestic products invest in Australian business operations. Or in other words, which authority controls that the profits remain in Australia?
In 2016 the Board of Directors decided to undertake voluntary winding up of the company. As a result of a number of factors including changes to Country of Origin labeling, downturn in membership renewals, increased one off costs associated with company structure, compliance and technology, AUSBUY was no longer able to continue as a going concern. Despite a wide range of activities and strategies designed to retain and grow membership over the past 18 months, the organisation had continued its decline to a point where a voluntary winding up of the company was the only prudent option.
Ausbuy’s main task is one of communication at many levels as follows:
- It tries to alert the people of Australia to the long term problems facing Australia and the possible effect on their children and grandchildren.
- It is invited onto television and radio to comment on relevant issues.
- It lobbies governments on such issues as labelling laws, foreign takeovers of Australian companies and competition issues.
- It publishes the Ausbuy Guide which is designed to enable the Australian public to identify and support the product and services offered by Australian owned companies. This book identifies brands and is of a size that can be carried round by the principal shopper.
- It has a logo which it licenses to its members so that they can differentiate their products and allow the consumer to identify them as being provided by Australian owned companies.
- It arranges promotions with supermarkets to assist the members to sell their products.
- It publishes a newsletter where it discusses the issues of the day in a non-partisan manner and in terms that the general public can understand.
- Gallagher, Michael M.; in: Fischer, Wolfgang Chr. & Mwenda, Kenneth K., Country of Origin - A Law and Economics Approach to the Concept of Made in Australia, 1st Edition, Koeln - Lohmar, Germany 2007, p.25
- Gallagher 2007, p.27
- Fischer, Wolfgang Chr., Street Markets - Small Business & Farmers' Perceptions in Australia & New Zealand, Kőln 2004, p.111-113
- Australian Consumers' Association, Should you Buy Australian? Choice, January 1987, p.32-33
- Fischer, Wolfgang Chr., in: Fischer, Wolfgang Chr. & Mwenda, Kenneth K., Country of Origin - A Law and Economics Approach to the Concept of Made in Australia, Kőln 2007, p.21
- Fischer 2007, p.22-23
- Black, Terry, Buy Australian? Myths and Realities, St.Leonards, Australia 1995, p.8
- Gallagher 2007, p.29