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Minister slams South Australian rescue plan

Response: Ian MacFarlane (left) with Holden managing director Mike Devereux and SA premier Jay Weatherill.

Federal industry minister labels SA rescue plan as ‘blatant made-for-TV politicking’

General News logo23 Jan 2014

By TERRY MARTIN

FEDERAL industry minister Ian Macfarlane has slammed the South Australian government’s $330 million recovery plan for the state, describing it as blatant political grandstanding and a short-term taxpayer-funded ‘band-aid’ solution.

In Melbourne earlier this week on the Victorian leg of the Abbott government’s ‘manufacturing and industry economic review’ of the two car-making states, set up in response to Holden’s decision to exit manufacturing in 2017, Mr Macfarlane said SA premier Jay Weatherill’s proposed recovery plan was “blatant made-for-TV politicking”.

“We are focused on laying the foundations for the long-term future of Australian manufacturing, not on applying short-term solutions or taxpayer-funded band-aids,” Mr Macfarlane said in a statement ahead of the Victorian review, which included trade and investment minister Andrew Robb and local business leaders Jackie Fairley, Frank Costa and Mark Birrell.

“Australia is currently sitting at a crossroads with a looming opportunity to develop a new industry and manufacturing approach. We need to think strategically and build on the sectors of the future according to our emerging strengths.” Preparing for a March 15 election, Mr Weatherill released his ‘jobs plan’ on Tuesday in which he commits $60 million of South Australian taxpayer funds – and asks for a further $333 million in federal funding – to support 14 “actions” that are designed to “prepare South Australia for GM Holden’s closure”. “We’ve put this plan together in consultation with the industry, the workers, the community sector, and other experts in the field,” he said.

“I’m calling on the federal government to step up and do the right thing and support us. It’s a robust plan, and it’s reasonable – the funding we’re asking for is only one-third of the amount that they’ve saved from the car industry.” As GoAuto has reported, the federal government announced a $100 million “growth fund” last month in the wake of Holden’s decision to shut down its manufacturing operations in 2017 – about 12 months after Ford closes its factories in Australia.

In response to Mr Weatherill’s plan, Mr Macfarlane told News Limited: “The Australian government is taking a methodical, considered and informed approach to mapping the future of manufacturing in South Australia, in contrast to the blatant made-for-TV politicking and grandstanding by the South Australian premier.” He also told the ABC: “Two months out from an election, a premier puts forward a proposal where he requires the federal government to put in $1.3 billion and he throws in $30 or $40 or $50 million.

“I don’t see the substance in that, I don’t understand what he’s proposing he hasn’t discussed it with me. There’s been no depth to what he’s been saying.

“Those sort of band-aid disposals offer no solution to South Australia. What you need is a measured, dedicated, well-researched approach to how we’re going to deal with the issues.

“We will put in place a plan that will serve South Australia well for a decade, not for two months just to get a Labor government re-elected.

“There’s no point having a review if you jump to a conclusion before you even start.” Ahead of the Melbourne review, which will be followed by a similar forum in Adelaide on February 5, the minister said the federal government was working closely with manufacturers “to investigate new opportunities to move from traditional heavy industrial manufacturing towards higher value-add production”.

He said these include helping each state’s manufacturing sector “diversify, link into global supply chains and develop strategies to commercialise new Australian products and services”.

“There are real and lasting growth opportunities in areas like food processing, biotechnology, and professional services – with an eye to greater exports, particularly to take advantage of our geography and trade links to the growing markets of Asia,” he said.

Submissions to the South Australian review close tomorrow, January 24.

Both the Victorian and South Australian reviews are described by the federal government as “guiding Australia’s transition to a new era of manufacturing and competitiveness, in preparation for the 2016 and 2017 departure of Ford and Holden”.

“These reviews signal the setting of a new direction in Australia’s manufacturing and industry policy,” Mr Macfarlane said at the reviews’ announcement on December 27.

“Traditional manufacturing is undergoing a global change which we must view as an opportunity to redefine the way Australia contributes to global supply chains.

“This is a chance to identify the future of smart manufacturing in Australia, to turn the spotlight on emerging strengths in other parts of the sector, and to build an agenda on the future of manufacturing not a continuation of the past.

“While these reviews are responding to the departure of Holden and Ford, we have a window of opportunity to devise a national strategic response that’s based on building a future rather than a piecemeal, subsidy approach to patch the past,” he said.

According to the government, a report with recommended actions is due to be finalised by the end of February “for further consideration, with a view to enabling the growth fund by mid-2014”.

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