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Napthine asleep at the wheel: Weatherill

On the line: SA premier Jay Weatherill says the loss of manufacturing jobs is a result of Denis Napthine's apathy towards the car industry.

SA premier slams Victorian counterpart over Aussie car industry collapse

General News logo3 Apr 2014

VICTORIAN premier Denis Napthine ignored pleas from South Australia to form a partnership or coalition to try to save the car industry before General Motors and Toyota decided to shut their local factories, according to SA premier Jay Weatherill.

Mr Weatherill accused Mr Napthine of being “asleep at the wheel” in the crucial months before the federal government “forced” the two car-makers to abandon Australia.

And he labeled as absurd suggestions that SA was reluctant to put up its share of a proposed $100 million fund to help displaced car workers find new employment.

Mr Weatherill said he had worked hard before the closure decisions were made to alert Victoria to the danger and to enlist its support in a coalition that could approach the commonwealth about continuing the car industry plan.

He accused Mr Napthine of being too complacent about GM Holden and Toyota continuing to manufacture when the warning signs were clear to see.

“I was meeting with Mr Napthine on a regular basis and communicating with his office,” Mr Weatherill said. “I was trying to get him interested in the fact that Holden’s was about to close.

“What I was met with was the view from him and his office was that it seemed unlikely. Finally, we were able to persuade him that it looked like it was a risk.

“I also told him that, if Holden’s closed, it was more likely than not that Toyota would close.

“Once again he suggested to me this didn’t seem like much of a risk from his perspective. Of course, all these things came to pass.

“I think poor old Dennis has been asleep at the wheel while we have been out there promoting the interests of the automotive sector in this nation.

“I spent a lot of time and effort trying to build a coalition with the Victorian premier.”

80 center imageLeft: South Australian premier Jay Weatherill.

Mr Weatherill said he had not intended to talk about what he described as Mr Napthine’s sloth on the issue until the issue of the proposed $100 million fund to help displaced car workers was raised by a report in Fairfax Media.

“I was content to leave his sloth as something that was not the subject of public comment, until he decided today to wade into the debate,” he said.

“If Mr Napthine wants to talk about relative contributions to saving the car industry, he has a lot of questions to answer.”

Mr Weatherill said there were misconceptions about the proposed $100 million fund that needed to be cleared up.

He said the idea of the fund was floated after it was announced GM Holden was planning to close its manufacturing operations.

“Within days of Holden’s closing, we hear about this $100 million package, and then we work out it is $60 million from the commonwealth. Victoria and Holden’s were meant to contribute the remaining $40 million,” Mr Weatherill said in a press conference in Adelaide.

“We were then told there would be a South Australia plan published in February.

Well, nothing has been seen of that.

“Then Toyota closes, and it is still $100 million.”

Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that South Australia, GM Holden and Toyota had not made expected contributions to the proposed $100 million fund. The car-makers were reported to be waiting to see how any money contributed would be spent.

Mr Weatherill said the $100 million fund proposed by the federal government after the GM decision was announced was inadequate given what the commonwealth was going to save by ending support for the automotive industry.

The car industry assistance plan would cost up to $600 million a year if the car-makers invested a total of $2.4 billion a year. To receive assistance, the car and parts-makers had to invest $3 for every $1 they received in co-investment.

“(The $100 million) is manifestly inadequate if you add the effect of Toyota on both Victoria and South Australia,” he said. “It is almost laughable to suggest we should be sharing this with Victoria.

“And it becomes even more absurd if it is suggested that Victoria wants 75 per cent of this rather miserly pool of funds.”“It just demonstrates that both the Victorian Government and the federal government have been caught napping over this whole question of the automotive industry and its closure.”

SA had already earmarked $60 million to help car industry workers make the transition into other jobs or retirement, and Mr Weatherill said he would be happy to allocate some of this towards a fund.

But he said he had been urging that the $60 million in federal funds simply be split between Victoria and South Australia.

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