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Australia parts industry goes on the front foot

Help wanted: FAPM says the next 18 to 24 months will be difficult for many Australian automotive components companies.

FAPM launches campaign to get the facts out before the election

General News logo14 Mar 2013

THE local parts industry has gone on the offensive in this election year with the aim of reversing negative perceptions and explaining to the public how important the car industry is to the Australian economy.

It appears the principal aim is to prevent politicians succumbing to the widespread view that manufacturing is finished in Australia.

The key ammunition for the campaign will come from an economic study that has been commissioned to accurately measure the value of the industry’s economic contribution, especially when set against the support the automotive sector receives under government assistance packages.

According to the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers president Jim Griffin, the campaign has been designed to inform the electorate about the size and value of the industry so voters can make an informed decision in September.

Speaking at a function to mark the start of Automotive Week, Mr Griffin said many commentators were talking about the demise of manufacturing.

“I call upon the federal sphere – the sitting Labor government and the Liberals and Nationals in opposition – to think very seriously about not making manufacturing and, specifically, the automotive industry, a political football,” he said.

“We are important to this nation. We do employ directly 50,000 people, indirectly another 200,000, far more than the mining industry does.

“We are responsible for all the fitters and turners and tradesmen who ultimately head to WA for a year or two to earn some money and then come back to the cooler climes in the eastern states,” he said in reference to the apprenticeships and other training programs conducted by automotive companies.

“We are the industry that underpins the aerospace, tool making, advanced manufacturing and high-tech industries,” he said.

80 center imageLeft: Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers president Jim Griffin.

Mr Griffin said the automotive industry did not get the recognition it deserved for the contributions it makes.

“We are the industry that is innovating, looking for new products, new technologies and new business partners and we deserve to be given far more support, far more credence and far more airplay, in a positive sense, than what we get today.”“There is a lot of bad press out there that denigrates the industry, doesn’t appreciate what we do, says we are over-supported. The bottom line is, if you want a car industry, you want it because it does contribute to the country.”“Every country around the world wants a car industry. It’s like bidding for the Olympics. If you want the Olympics you have to bid. If you want a car industry, you have to pay to keep it.”

Mr Griffin said he was concerned about the general level of ignorance about the car industry, especially outside the automotive states of Victoria and South Australia.

“We will be doing what we can to educate the voters of this country, to make sure they understand just how many cars are made here, which cars are made here, and why it is important that we continue to make cars here,” he said.

“When voters put that voting slip in that ballot box on September 14 this year, we are trying to ensure they vote for the party that is giving consideration to the continuance of manufacturing in this country, and on a global scale,” he said.

Mr Griffin said the FAPM wants to ensure that the automotive sector will continue to employ at least 50,000 people directly and 200,000 indirectly.

He also voiced the industry’s frustration about the lop-sided free trade agreements Australia has signed in the recent past that always favor offshore automotive sectors to the detriment of the Australian manufacturers.

“We also want to be given fair and reasonable opportunities to export our product and gain market share in nations and markets where, to date, we do not receive reciprocal arrangements as far as access goes,” he said, referring to FTAs with Thailand and Malaysia.

He also suggested the Government could have done more to counter the effects of the strong Australian dollar, like other countries have done, to protect their industrial bases against a deliberately weak US dollar.

“We look to someone in Government to do more for this industry to make sure we can override the position of our dollar and gain further share.”

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