A message from Jens Goennemann

Proudly made in Australia… is just not good enough.

Full disclosure: I have an issue with pride. What for example would it have meant for me to be a proud German, I asked myself when I was younger. Winning the World Cup in soccer? I never kicked a ball in a single match. Fancy cars ‘Made in Germany’? I didn’t hold a wrench either. Winning national titles in skydiving and representing my countries at World Championships? For the love of the sport, I always valued the comradeship amongst athletes and nations way more.

From wars to other acts of barbarism, pride has also made people do awful things. There is probably a reason why then that pride is one of the seven cardinal sins.

I would much rather be grateful than proud. I think it’s far more reasonable for me to say I’m grateful for where I was born, or grateful to now live in a wonderful country like Australia than to take any kind of credit, which seems to be something attached to pride.

This brings me to the phrase “proudly made in Australia”. Or Germany. Or elsewhere.

Proudly made in Australia is simply not good enough if we wish to compete globally. What is attached to the claim? Does it mean we as Australians should buy it because it’s made in Australia? What if there’s something better? And where would our lucky country be if, for example, our foreign commodity customers took pride in buying domestically?

Where instead should our ambition be when economic patriotism and pride do not cut it? Should we be motivated by excellence or just care about the chance occurrence of where we were born, or in my case, be allowed to live (for which I am very grateful)?

Pride will eventually become meaningless to a customer if there’s something better. Just look at the cars we drive today and where they come from. Markets make their own decisions. A successful Australian manufacturer (and there are plenty of them) needs to answer a market need and deliver something people truly value in the long term. What is valued by 25 million customers here, will be valued by 7.5 billion customers elsewhere.

As far as manufacturing is concerned, let’s not aim for national pride. Let’s aim for global competitiveness. Let’s aim to be better at what we make. Let’s aim for a better rank in the Economic Complexity Index than being 91st. If we achieve that and then want to be proud of it, we can because we’ve earned it.