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Carr back to steering auto industry

Back behind the wheel: Senator Kim Carr is once again heading up the federal government’s department that oversees the car-making industry.

Kim Carr regains industry portfolio as post-coup Rudd rewards loyal following

General News logo1 Jul 2013

KIM Carr will once again oversee Australia’s ailing car industry – more than a year after he was dumped from the portfolio for backing the wrong leader.

Kevin Rudd today announced that Senator Carr – unceremoniously dumped by Julia Gillard in 2012 as she rewarded Labor party members loyal to her leadership ambitions – would step back up to the frontbench and face the election as the minister for industry, science, innovation and higher education.

Senator Carr retakes the cabinet seat from former trade unionist Greg Combet, who replaced the more senior Labor minister in the 2012 spill.

“In politics you don't often get a second chance,” Mr Carr said in an official statement today announcing his appointment to an expanded ministry that now includes higher education as part of the innovation brief.

“I will embrace this opportunity to bring energy and focus to the task of putting innovation at the centre of building a richer, fairer, greener Australia.” He alluded to closer ties with Australia’s manufacturing industry as it struggled with a high Australian dollar and increasing cost pressures from overseas competition.

“I believe we can take courage from the tenacity with which our firms have weathered the storm.

“This is not the time to yield. It is the time to renew our commitment to workers and their future and to building stronger management of our firms and modernising our production processes.” Australian car-makers welcomed Senator Carr’s return.

Holden product launch communications director Craig Cheetham said the car-maker has had a good working relationship with both the government and the coalition.

“We talk regularly with the Industry Minister and Shadow Minister about the need for clear, consistent and globally competitive automotive policy,” Mr Cheetham said.

“Holden had a good working relationship with Minister Combet and previously Minister Carr and we expect that to remain the case with Minister Carr's reappointment.

“Holden also has a good working relationship with shadow minister Sophie Mirabella. Our ongoing discussions with the government and coalition about future industry policy will continue.” Toyota Australia media and external affairs manager Beck Angel said the car-maker was appreciative of Mr Combet's support during his term as minister for climate change, industry and innovation.

“We congratulate the new minister, Kim Carr, on his appointment and look forward to working with him to ensure the long-term viability of the automotive sector.” Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Tony Weber said his association, which represents the almost 50 car brands on sale in Australia, also welcomed Senator Carr back to the industry portfolio.

“We look forward to again working with the minister, who we know has a deep understanding of the automotive industry and the important role automotive manufacturing plays in the national economy,” Mr Weber said.

The Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce reflected the FCAI’s positive response..

“Minister Carr was a good supporter of the automotive industry in his previous roles as minister for innovation, industry, science and research, and as minister for manufacturing,” VACC executive director David Purchase said.

“VACC urges Minister Carr to continue his good relations with members of the automotive industry and develop a wider approach to the industry.” Mr Purchase said the Australian retail automotive industry had called for a complete re-think of the nation’s industry policy to expand thinking beyond just car-making.

“Given the repair, service and retail sector’s contribution to the local community and the national economy, it is irresponsible to consider the industry without it,” Mr Purchase said.

“Any long-term policy on the automotive industry has to include the whole industry. We urge Minister Carr to be inclusive of the repair, service and retail sector of the automotive industry.” Mr Purchase said the VACC also urged Senator Carr to promote Australia’s capability as an automotive design centre of excellence.

“Some of the world’s finest car designers are in Victoria and yet, automotive industry discussion and debate is often solely focused on the manufacturing sector,” he said.

Shadow industry minister Sophie Mirabella criticised Mr Rudd’s decision to reappoint Senator Carr.

"The last thing you would do if you were serious about increasing Australia's productivity and competitiveness is reward a failed Labor mate who repeatedly ignores small business, and prefers high-priced and wasteful subsidies to productive investments in national innovation and growth," she said in a statement following the announcement.

He faces a challenging task. As well as an upcoming election, Senator Carr will now have to deal with the continuing fallout of Ford’s decision to quit manufacturing in Australia from late 2016, and Holden’s bid to broker a fast-tracked deal with unions to cut production costs.

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