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Industry welcomes supplier coordinator

Instrumental: Australian car parts-makers now have a new helping hand to access government funding.

New ‘central point’ position for automotive parts-makers welcomed by industry

General News logo12 Jun 2009

AUSTRALIAN car parts-makers have welcomed the creation of a new state-funded representative to help them access government funding.

In one of the first practical outcomes to emerge from the federal government’s $6.2 billion car industry blue print, the Australian and Victorian governments have jointly funded a newly created position that will act as a conduit between automotive component manufacturers and government assistance schemes.

Announced this week by federal industry minister Kim Carr and his Victorian counterpart Martin Pakula, whose departments have each contributed $75,000 to the role, the new supplier assistance coordinator will be based at the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers (FAPM).

Former chairman of KPMG's Automotive Industry Focus Group, Stewart Leslie, has been appointed to the position for 12 months.

FAPM acting chief executive Barry Comben told GoAuto that the move was all about providing a central point of contact for all automotive component manufacturers, whether they were FAPM members or not.

“It’s my baby, effectively,” he said. “FAPM took the initiative some months ago to take up negotiations with both the state and federal government departments and we’re very pleased that they saw the merits in our proposal and have agreed to jointly fund a representative to support the FAPM in this initiative.

“It is not a rescue-type initiative, but aims to be pre-emptive and proactive and to endeavour to provide some qualified and independent advice to firms across a variety of areas, including financial and operational advice.

“Stewart Leslie is a very capable person with a lot of experience in his particular area of accounting and finance, as well as interfacing with the automotive industry given his experience at KPMG.” Mr Leslie’s primary role will be to help local automotive companies access finance and the range of government programs available to help them boost their productivity.

 center imageLeft: Federal minister Kim Carr. Below: Victorian minister Martin Pakula.

They include programs under the Australian government’s $6.2 billion New Car Plan for a Greener Future, such as the Automotive Transformation Scheme, the Automotive Supply Chain Development Program and the Automotive Industry Structural Adjustment Program. Victorian government programs include the Industry Transition Fund and the Automotive Manufacturing Action Plan.

“This is an industry with the capacity to adapt and renew itself, an evolution that will be made easier by this new position,” said Senator Carr on June 10.

“I urge all Australian automotive suppliers, especially those facing immediate challenges, to contact Mr Leslie at FAPM for experienced and informed advice about their financial needs, industry assistance and support services.” Mr Pakula said the supplier assistance coordinator will provide independent, confidential advice and assistance from June 1.

“The coordinator will be a single point of contact with initial consultation services provided to both FAPM members and non-members free-of-charge.

“Mr Leslie is the former Chairman of aXcess Australia Projects, which promoted Australian automotive industry capabilities internationally and has carried out numerous specialist automotive industry assignments in areas such as training, due diligence and business expansion strategies,” he said.

Mr Leslie has provided advisory services to Australian automotive industry in manufacturing, retail and aftersales since 1977, including as a KPMG partner between 1986 and his 2001 retirement.

He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, a member of the Board of Directors of the Royal Women’s Hospital and a Director of the Australian Institute of Management (Victoria and Tasmania).

Mr Comben, who wrote to FAPM members and non-members about the new supplier assistance role this week, said he had been negotiating with the federal and state governments since early this year, with Senator Carr’s office signing an agreement last week and Mr Pakula’s department agreeing early this week.

He said it was a co-incidence that the new position was formally announced on the same day another local car parts-maker, Trident Tooling closed its doors (see separate story).

“It’s quite coincidental and some cynics might see it as a kneejerk reaction by the governments to be seen to be doing something, but this idea is quite a number of months in the making,” he said.

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