Dahlsens’ decision is a sign of greater economic upheaval

THE national economy has been under scrutiny during the past two days as taxpayers decipher the latest data and the effect of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision to again cut interest rates.

Yesterday, Treasurer Wayne Swan announced that the latest figures showed the Australian economy grew by 0.5 per cent in the September quarter for an annual rate of 3.1 per cent. It followed a number of banks announcing cuts to interest rates, although most not at the level of the RBA policies.

While the big picture announcements provide more grey about Australia’s economic situation, it may be a local announcement that tells us more about just where the economy sits.

A major lament in Ballarat over the past five years has been the corporatisation of formerly local business interests. The rise of large national and international chains, often at the expense of locals, has taken some of the romance out of the business sector.

This week’s announcement that Dahlsens Hardware will begin laying off staff is another unwanted side-effect of the ever-developing fight between major national chains. Woolworths-owned Masters Hardware, a relatively new opponent to the Wesframers-affiliated Bunnings Warehouse, plans to open next year in Wendouree.

A bid earlier this year for a takeover of another local store, G Gay and Co, was knocked on the head by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The hardware sector is a mere microcosm of the changes in the economy but is a cautionary tale of the big getting bigger and the small dying off.

The net impact on jobs may be minimal and the support of the local community may well be no less generous. Yet the innate sense of local money staying in local communities is more difficult to comprehend.

It seems to be this notion that is highlighted when the wider economy faces difficulties. While few would argue that Australia’s position during the past decade has been one of strength, amid the spin around yesterday’s growth figures is the irrefutable fact that our economy is slowing.

Ballarat’s strength continues to be a commitment to viable and vibrant businesses that d ingrain themselves with the community. Let’s hope that sense is never lost.

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