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Coalition will ‘kill’ Carr-led plans

On the front foot: Industry minister Kim Carr with Toyota Australia president Max Yasuda at the Camry Hybrid launch.

An Abbott government would ‘kill or cripple’ Labor’s innovation policies: Carr

10 Aug 2010

A COALITION government would “kill or cripple” the Labor government’s policies on innovation in the car industry and would not have the same level of commitment to Australian vehicle manufacturing, according to federal innovation, industry, science and research minister Kim Carr.

Speaking to GoAuto after launching its Automotive Australia 2020 roadmap in conjunction with the Victorian Labor government – also up for re-election later this year – and the Co-operative Research Centre for Advanced Automotive Technology (AutoCRC), Senator Carr said Labor was the only Australian political party that provided “genuine commitment” to the local car manufacturing industry.

In response to a question on the future viability of Toyota and Ford engine operations in Australia, Senator Carr said he was confident the parent companies of local car manufacturers supported the Labor government’s commitments under its $6.2 billion New Car Plan for a Greener Future, for which the new roadmap will provide further direction.

“I want to be really clear about this,” he said. “We are working closely with the major MVPs (motor vehicle producers) – that’s why I’ve spent so much time overseas talking to the senior leadership of the companies – I’m very confident of the value the international motor companies’ leadership has in Australia.

“They understand that because of the Australian government’s commitment, this is a very important component in their assessments.

“They know the New Car Plan is a measure of our commitment, and you contrast that with what our opponents are saying, which is essentially to kill or cripple our innovation policies.

 center imageLeft: Industry minister Kim Carr with former Holden chairman and managing director Mark Reuss. Centre: Senator Carr with Ford Australia president Marin Burela. Bottom: The motor industry 'Roadmap'.

“The international motor industry is looking for certainty, it’s looking for continuity and it’s looking for genuine commitment. And only the Labor party provides that.”

Senator Carr said in a speech to the annual conference of the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers (FAPM) in Queensland last week that the imminent retirement of South Australian minister Nick Minchin meant the industry now had few friends on the conservative side of politics.

He pointed to the Coalition’s intention to take $278 million out of the Green Car Innovation Fund, and quoted shadow minister for employment and workplace relations Eric Abetz as dismissing the New Car Plan as “industry welfare”.

He also said shadow industry spokesperson Sophie Mirabella agreed with that approach.

Senator Carr later told GoAuto: “We’ve put $6 billion on the table. Six billion. All we’ve heard from our opponents is how they want to cut back support for the automotive industry. That’s the contrast.”

Ms Mirabella’s office declined a request from GoAuto to respond to Senator Carr’s comments, and to outline the Tony Abbott-led opposition’s position on the car industry in general. However, a spokesperson said the Coalition would release its industry policy before the August 21 election.

The 2020 roadmap has cost about $954,000 dollars to develop, with the federal government contributing $384,000, the Victorian government $350,000, and AutoCRC $220,000.

Senator Carr told GoAuto that the roadmap did not seek to replace the New Car Plan, but would provide direction for the next decade and was designed to be developed further in consultation with the Automotive Industry Innovation Council.

The roadmap also builds on the $6.7 million Victorian Automotive Manufacturing Action Plan and will be managed by AutoCRC.

“Obviously the supply chain is critical to the future of manufacturing in this country,” Senator Carr said. “However, this (roadmap) is directed at both the MVP and the component manufacturers. It will be a question of the extent to which these issues are picked up by investors.”

As GoAuto has reported, the core tenet of the roadmap is vehicle electrification, including hybrid and electric vehicles.

Specifically, six applications in this area were identified as high priority: development and manufacture of supercapacitors for EVs design and local assembly of electric vehicle power electronics modules high energy density batteries low cost, robust efficient electric motors/generators standardised battery packs for large passenger vehicles and development of a modular EV powertrain.

The other “long-term opportunities” identified covered gaseous fuels, light weight technology, and data and communications.

Specific applications for gaseous fuels in the roadmap include: a dedicated direct injection system for LPG engines fast-filling technology for LPG and a high-capacity, low-cost on-vehicle CNG storage tank.

Asked about supporting the fledgling CNG industry’s quest for a national refuelling infrastructure, Senator Car told GoAuto: “That’s part of the difficulties. (But) this is also about on-vehicle storage tanks. There’s also the issues about export arrangements – capacities for export arrangements – and there’s R&D that’s required for these projects.

“That’s one of the other issues in this roadmap. We want to build much stronger links with the universities and the CSIRO and our other science agencies.”

In the ‘lightweighting’ area, the roadmap identifies the following high-priority applications: replacement of traditionally steel components with lightweight alternatives manufacture of lightweight body panels commercialisation of lightweight road wheels reduction of vehicle structure weight by 30 per cent while improving safety and use of 3D composites for interior structure and seats.

With IT, the main thrust will be to develop improved human-machine interfaces and driver information systems.

Senator Carr: “Our aim must be to build competitive advantage wherever we can, but not to squander the advantages we already have.

“The Automotive Industry Innovation Council has undertaken to advise me on how we can use the roadmap to best effect after the election – and I hope I am around to receive that advice.”

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