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Combet to head up Holden-exit taskforce

Heavy industry: Former Gillard government minister Greg Combet will help South Australia transform itself after Holden’s exit from manufacturing.

Former industry minister to help SA’s workers exit car-making

General News logo17 Dec 2013

FORMER union heavyweight Greg Combet will head up a special South Australian taskforce that will help workers affected by Holden’s decision to stop making cars in Australia.

The one-time industry minister – appointed after former prime minister Julia Gillard rewarded those loyal to her leadership spill that deposed Kevin Rudd from the top spot – will act as the state’s automotive transformation coordinator, earning $160,000 a year.

SA premier Jay Weatherill said the state’s Advanced Manufacturing Taskforce would initially assist Mr Combet, who would be responsible for coordinating assistance provided to car industry workers and parts suppliers.

Mr Weatherill said the state had established “a series of initiatives” to help workers and start work on transforming its manufacturing industry, and flagged he would meet with car-parts makers on Thursday to discuss the state’s plans for them.

“We are working closely with our Victorian counterparts and (Victorian) manufacturing minister David Hodgett will be attending this meeting,” Mr Weatherill said.

He said SA’s manufacturing minister, Tom Kenyon, would represent the state at a corresponding meeting in Melbourne tomorrow. Meanwhile, Mr Weatherill has revealed he is in talks with other car-makers who could step into the state after Holden’s exit.

"We've had discussions with large international interests about the possibility of car manufacturing in South Australia but I don't want to reveal those," Mr Weatherill said.

Professor Goran Roos, the chair of South Australia’s Advanced Manufacturing Council, said earlier this year that the state’s industry could survive as a niche car-maker.

“There’s a debate in Australia that sometimes assumes that the only people who make cars are people with brands on the front of the car,” Mr Roos said shortly after he finalised a crucial cost-savings report for car-making unions based on Holden’s internal financial data.

“It’s not right. Most cars that people buy that are specialised versions of something ... it’s not made by (the car brand),” he told a conference in Melbourne.

“It’s made by a company called Magna Steyr and they do not make cars in volumes higher than 100,000 – they usually make them in numbers much smaller than that – and they are very profitable.

“So don’t tell me that we can’t make cars profitably in small volumes – but it is a different way of making cars.”

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