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The quality of Australian products

By Valerie Yule - posted Friday, 27 July 2012

When people are asked why they don’t buy Australian goods, the answer is that the quality is too poor or unreliable. Cost is only second. Hard to find is a third answer.

Poor quality workmanship by some firms spelled the doom of the federal government pink batts insulation scheme, and caused a lot of the discontent with the School Buildings expenses. Poor quality of some goods means lack of confidence in all goods.

It is no good to argue for Australian products by pointing to the value of circulating money within Australia, the Australian jobs kept, and the emissions saved by avoiding freight costs, if the goods themselves are of poor quality. Australian’s just won’t buy if they think the quality is poor, whether it is or not, when the price is unlikely to be favorable either.


Australians make these shoddy goods. The result is that all Australian goods are regarded with suspicion, just like Japanese goods once were, and Brummagem (Birmingham) before that. If Australian’s want to keep their businesses and jobs, they must go for quality. Durability, efficiency and good design are essential.

Australians should also complain to makers and retailers about anything Australian that they buy that lets them down. Instead, they grizzle over their beer or cuppas.

I find that often the manufacturers are unaware of the defects, and can quickly remedy them. When a magazine a few years back had a feature of readers testing various products, it was remarkable how often it was found that products were put on the market with inadequate features that were immediately picked on as poor by the readers. This should have been found out before the products were marketed. This magazine feature deserves repeating. Among other things, it tells readers what products are available on the market  – they are not left to rely on the advertisements of the international businesses.

Choice does a good job in testing products, but it omits testing certain important qualities of goods, such as durability, use of sustainable ingredients, and emissions footprint in their operation. It could go further in its’ testing. For example, in testing lawn-mowers, it should include manual mowers as well as power-operated.

Branding of products as Australian, Australian made, Australian owned, produce of Australia, and so forth, is done so haphazardly that it makes a confusing array for consumers to make head or tail of.  Along with straightening this out, we need a Quality Australian stamp which is of government origin. To reduce the expense of this, it would be something that businesses would submit their products to acquire.

Supermarkets put Australian-made goods in awkward places, and  give best places to overseas multinationals that can pay discounts.


The ‘Australia shops’ that I am campaigning for, to be promoted by local councils in empty shops or in tandem with other shops, would be a place where people could find what they wanted, and quality could be tested by buyers and sellers. There are websites funded by Australian-owned companies, and they should be comprehensive, and known by everyone.

New products made by Australian firms are often very good – but unknown. So the firms go bankrupt, and other firms are warned off trying something new. Simple products made overseas are often neither imported nor copied – for example, spin-driers that could save you dollars and save the country tonnes in carbon emissions .

Old products are often not what the market wants – for example, carmakers of Holdens’ do not make the small cars that everyone wants nowadays, and wonder why they have to sack employees.

Everyone who is involved in making anything Australian should buy when possible other things that are Australian. It might seem bleeding obvious.

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About the Author

Valerie Yule is a writer and researcher on imagination, literacy and social issues.

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