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Abbott turns to Geelong with $14m centre

New funding: Prime minister Tony Abbott and assistant minister for training and education Sarah Henderson visit students at Newcomb Secondary College near Geelong.

Government puts $14m into manufacturing ‘growth’ centre but budget cuts still hurt

7 Aug 2015

THE federal government will fund a $14 million ‘Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre’ on the campus of Deakin University near Geelong in Victoria as a means of limiting the impact of automotive industry job losses.

The centre will be integrated with a series of similar centres across the country and will “develop a sector competitiveness plan” to link local businesses with global companies, according to industry minister Ian Macfarlane.

The plan was announced jointly this week with prime minister Tony Abbott, assistant minister for education and training Simon Birmingham and the member for Corangamite Sarah Henderson.

“The plan will identify jobs and skills needs, provide a pipeline of innovations ready to commercialise, and consider areas for reforming regulation, manufacturing transformation and growth,” Mr Macfarlane said.

However, federal shadow minister for higher education, research, innovation and industry Kim Carr said the $14 million plan would not undo the damage done to Geelong as a result of Abbott government cuts to industry, education and research.

The $14 million was only a fraction of the amount the Abbott government’s first budget had stripped out of Deakin’s budget, Senator Carr said.

“Placing a $14 million growth centre at Deakin University is a token gesture in comparison to the $154 million in cuts (Mr Abbott) has inflicted on the same university,” he said.

“Geelong has been sinking under the loss of manufacturing jobs, a condition heightened by the Abbott government’s relentless attacks on the automotive industry.

“What Geelong is calling for is a credible new jobs plan that can help the region attract new investment and employment following the closure of Alcoa and as Ford ceases car parts manufacturing in Geelong next year.

“Today’s announcement doesn’t go nearly far enough to help deal with the devastating lob losses as major sources of employment leave the region.” Senator Carr pointed to the government’s refusal earlier this year to take up an offer from the Victorian government to extend and boost funding for the Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund (GRIIF), which had been set up by the previous federal Labor government to help counter automotive job losses.

One company to receive funding from the GRIIF scheme was carbon-fibre specialist Quickstep, which received a $1.76 million grant towards the construction of its new automotive division plant on the Deakin campus.

Senator Carr described the government’s refusal to take up the Victorian offer as “short-sighted and penny-pinching”.

He said that, along with the loss of around 100,000 jobs in the automotive industry, Victoria was facing the loss of $13 billion in gross regional product by the end of 2017 – a burden that would be felt most in regional centres like Geelong.

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