A couple of years ago I happened to walk along Gawler Place in Adelaide, between Rundle Mall and North Tce. It wasn’t my normal route to the bus stop but for some reason my journey took me that way (I’m hoping I was buying flowers for my wife in the Mall!). Anyway I stumbled across this Ditters Nuts shop which looked for all the world like it was still in the 50’s. I don’t say this as a criticism at all, because in a world that’s always changing it was refreshing to see a little business which had evidently been in the same place for many years, still going about its business. Over the next few months I made a point of stopping by Ditters and sampling their delicious wares (if you’ve never had freshly roasted nuts you haven’t lived!).
For one reason or another that practice stopped, although once in a while when I’d wander up that way I’d see Clark Ditter going about his business behind the counter and smile contentedly about how nice it is to have traditional Aussie shops still there. And I’d walk on past. A couple of years ago Rundle Mall lost Darrell Lea chocolates on the King William St corner which was a sad day, but I was pleased to see Charlesworth Nuts open in its place. Every day I walk past Charlesworth and am glad to see an Australian business doing its thing.
Yesterday I happened to wander past Ditters again, after what must have been a number of months, and I was surprised to see the shop had closed down.
Or maybe, I shouldn’t have been so surprised.
There’s a lot of shutdowns going on in Australia at the moment. In 2006 we lost Mitsubishi. Last year we heard we would be losing Ford and Holden by 2017. A month or so ago we learned the inevitable that Toyota would be following out of Australia. At the start of 2013 Adelaidenow ran a story about the demise of the Australian car industry.
The point was well made that:
“…we might have a soft spot for the “red” or the “blue” corner, but we’re not buying locally made cars from those brands like the good old days.”
Now we’re hearing Qantas is in strife. Whatever you think of Tony Abbott, he made a good assessment of the situation at a press conference yesterday:
“…our sentimental attachment to Qantas as an Australian symbol is not being matched by travellers’ loyalty to the airline.”
“…we know that something like 25 per cent of Australians travel overseas on Qantas and that means something like 75 per cent of us travel overseas on other airlines. We know that the percentage of Australians buying cars that are made in Australia has dropped and dropped and dropped despite the fact that many of us remain sentimentally attached to Holden or to Ford.”
So when I’ve had a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart about Ditters Nuts but have walked straight on by with my money still in my wallet, should I be surprised if eventually places like this cease to operate? Why is it in Australia that we’re sentimentally attached to our national icons, but not prepared to put our money where our mouth is? Why are we happy to give our money to overseas businesses who don’t provide jobs to our families, but complain that the government should do something when a national icon inevitably go under when a fair share of the blame in fact lies at our doors?
I’m not trying to simplify what is a complex set of circumstances for all involved in these businesses, but government policy and corporate decisions are beyond the scope of most of us to influence. But what we CAN influence very easily is where we choose to spend our money. Once Australian businesses are gone we’ll be reliant on other countries to provide our basic needs, and if something goes awry then our lucky country could well be quite the opposite. So I think it’s time we stopped moaning about what the government should or shouldn’t do, and start doing what we can by choosing to buy Australian goods and services.
Or tomorrow, we may have no choice.
P.S. I’m glad to report Ditters Nuts has not gone out of business; for whatever reason they moved this shop to a premises out of town. But this incident precipitated a number of thoughts on this matter which I feel need to be said.