Australian-made is better, most people in Australia are likely to say.

Kind of like US president-elect Donald Trump says about America, as he wears his “Make America great again” hats that bear labels saying they are “Proudly Made in USA.”

But do people really think that Australian-made is better? We might say so because we care in theory about our economy and jobs, or simply because we have a vague, general sense of nationalistic pride. But do we really invest in this statement with our purchasing decisions?

As a nation, perhaps we don’t really care about supporting Australian-made products. Perhaps we don’t put our money where our mouth is. For a start, we don’t really support our manufacturing industry.

We have lost a number of manufacturing industries, such as the automotive industry. And many lament the loss of these industries, pointing out that a healthy manufacturing industry supports a healthy economy. Look at the economy of Germany, which is strongly reliant on manufacturing. In the premium car segment, German automotive companies have a combined world market share of 90 per cent.

Australia is not supporting such a manufacturing industry; maybe we should, but the facts currently point to an overall lack of domestic support.

Just like it’s a fact that the Trump’s company’s glasses are made in China, and Trump by Dorya furniture parts are made in Germany, and despite this, he still won the US election.

And just like Trump says America needs to manufacture more, we like to say that Australian-made is better. Except, that is, when products made in China are cheaper, or those made in Germany are higher quality.

Trump is just a businessman, after all. Money talks. Give the people what they want.

Back to the German premium car industry, which dominates the world. Due to many years of investment in this industry, and longstanding commitment and support, they have achieved standards against which it is impossible for Australia to compete.

When it comes to building components, we have the same issues, although we don’t all necessarily know it.

We don’t know it, because the benefits of building components are not all obvious to us as consumers of buildings. In fact, we are not offered the same clear choices as we are in the car market.

Car manufacturers advertise heavily on television, on social media, and in print. We can test drive the cars. We can see and touch and to some degree measure the benefits of a premium car. It feels better, rides better, looks better, and uses less fuel.

Some of our building elements are obviously better. Others only show their quality over time – such as a timber cladding that warps and rots versus a facade that lasts. A blueboard panel that fades and twists versus a material that stands straight and keeps the same colour over time. A window that leaks air or water and twists and gets mouldy and rotten over the years versus a window that keeps its shape and colour, seals well and doesn’t create condensation.

And if it’s up to your local architect, or builder to make all the purchasing decisions for your building components, they won’t always let you in on their selection decision. And they won’t always know about those hidden benefits.

But if you are the owner, the occupier, the consumer, or the end user, over time you will start to notice the effects of those decisions that you, the purchaser of that window or building, have unknowingly made through your builder or architect.

By the time you see the problem, your architect and builder may be long gone.

When you decide to have a certified passive house, you want your whole building to really perform; as such, building component decisions come into sharp focus.

High performance glazing and frames must be proven and tested, to ensure your building can really be the best.

This may be a hotly contested point, or it might be accepted, but I think the Australian window industry is generally behind the German window industry when it comes to premium quality, high performing, long lasting windows – maybe as much as 20 years behind.

Sometimes it just isn’t feasible to support Australian-made windows for certified passive house projects.

Those who manufacture terrific windows in their workshops in this country should be applauded.  That said, as a general rule, we are not building to the sorts of tolerances and standards needed to create a high quality, top performing, certified passive house building.

I think it’s worth importing windows from Germany or some other places in Europe if you want a high quality building, but perhaps you don’t agree. Perhaps you think Australian-made is better, or cheaper, or just as good. But in the meantime, we can provide more choice, just like we do with cars and t-shirts and washing machines.

That way, consumers – ideally informed ones – can make up their own minds.

  • If you are talking about the UPVC double glazed windows from Germany, Ours fell apart after 1 year!
    Better off buying local because if something does go wrong it's easier getting it fixed/replaced.
    Another issue is just because it is built in another country does not mean it would pass our Australian conditions which are nothing like Germany especially summer.
    Australian made is better, The problem is finding anything that is made here.
    Usually it's all moved offshore to China for cheap labor to cut costs and appease shareholders/investors, Now even China is becoming too expensive for companies and they are moving to Vietnam and other Sth East Asian nations, Once there lifestyle increases and prices go up, Companies will pack up and find another cheap source of labor maybe African nations.

    As for Quality, Go and look at all the drama happening with cars built overseas, They are no better at all but cost more for the name on the badge!

    • Greetings Mac – that's a shame about your windows. If you go to a good, established supplier they should be fixing problems regardless of where they are situated. Regarding summer, you make a good point. A good supplier uses a "hot mix" now for Upvc in tropical/warm countries. If they only supply materials suited to Germany that will often be unsuitable for other countries.
      Of course, it is not the case that everything made overseas is better than everything in Australia, or vice versa. However, there are some established products that have been being manufactured in Germany for decades – like Mercedes Benz or Miele – and they really do provide amazing quality and last the distance.

  • It's well known that NRMA had the road service contract for VW and got out of it as they were so notorious for breaking down. A driver once said to 30% of his calls were to VW under warranty. We need to look further into advertising perception and really pushing that Australian made. Electrolux just went to Malaysia – not because they weren't profitable or not because people weren't buying … they went there to achieve higher profits for shareholders based of wages.

    • Hi Steve Woods – that's the problem with writing articles that generalise – not all products from each country are the same standard. Each consumer must do their own research as best they can. Your VW research is a good example. And each consumer must decide what they want: something that breaks down and is replaced quickly; or performs well and lasts. Choice Magazine was a good one for researching products. But even if we push Australian made, which I would also prefer to do, if Australia is not getting behind the manufacturing industry for the long haul, the products just become unavailable.

  • You are generalising and that is definitely wrong! Our company has made European style windows locally here in Australia for over 25 years, supporting many local jobs and trained 35 apprentices. Coming from Austria originally and having been trained there to the highest level of window technology and tradesman ship, I dare you to find any differences between European made and our Australian made products. Except of course that we use Australian timbers and glass (except for bushfire Flame Zone because it is not available made locally).
    Passive House is great and we are proud members but the Australian division might have to learn to use Australian U-values in their calculations for a level playing field. As you wrote yourself ( the values are calculated differently.

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