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Federal government adds $40m to car sector fund

Planning ahead: The growth fund allocates $30m to a skills and training program, and $15m to careers advice and related assistance, to help workers secure new jobs before the car industry’s demise in 2017.

Car industry recovery fund now out to $155m as Abbott brings federal total to $100m

1 May 2014

THE federal government has added $40 million to a growth fund designed to assist the thousands of auto production and supply chain workers who will lose their jobs with the forthcoming closure of the Australian car manufacturing industry, taking its commitment to $100 million.

With $15 million each from Toyota Australia and GM Holden – both of which are closing their car-making operations in 2017, a year after Ford pulls out – and $12 million from both the Victorian and South Australian state governments, the growth fund’s coffers are now holding $155 million.

Details of the fund were finally supplied this week by prime minister Tony Abbott and federal industry minister Ian Macfarlane, putting an end to the uncertainty surrounding the initial $100 million fund announced last December.

Two reviews established and chaired by Mr Macfarlane, one each on the Victorian and South Australian economies, were completed early in March, providing recommendations on how to allocate the money.

However, federal cabinet is believed to have only considered the funding allocation in the past few weeks.

The growth fund provides $30 million for a skills and training program designed to help affected workers retrain before they lose their job, an extra $15 million for the ‘automotive industry structural adjustment program’ to provide careers advice and related assistance, and $20 million for an ‘automotive diversification program’ to assist supply chain firms enter non-automotive markets.

A further $60 million will be poured into a ‘next generation manufacturing investment program’ that will aim to accelerate private sector investment in “high-value non-automotive manufacturing sectors” in Victoria and South Australia, plus $30 million for a regional infrastructure program to support investment in “non-manufacturing opportunities” in affected regions.

The growth fund comes under the Abbott government’s ‘National Industry Investment and Competitiveness Agenda’ that will be released later this year.

In a joint statement, Mr Abbott and Mr Macfarlane said: “We are committed to doing what we can to ensure that these employees move from one good job to a better job when they leave those companies.

“The reviews of the South Australian and Victorian economies found significant growth can be expected in sectors like advanced manufacturing, food and agriculture, health and biomedical, mining services, tourism and education, and the growth fund will help local economies take up these opportunities.” Victorian premier Denis Napthine welcomed the additional federal support, saying “our highest priority is ensuring that workers are fully supported as they look to transition into new jobs”.

He said additional funding would also be allocated to existing manufacturing industry investment programs “that are already making a positive difference in Geelong and in Melbourne’s north”.

These include ‘innovation and investment’ funds set up for the areas around Ford’s Broadmeadows assembly plant in Melbourne’s north and its production facilities in Geelong, with $24.5 million made available to each region through federal and Victorian government funding ($30m and $9m respectively) and $10 million from Ford.

“We have already seen how the industry fund has had a positive effect in local communities through job-creating projects such as the expansion of Carbon Revolution in Geelong and Koko Black in Coburg,” Dr Napthine said.

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