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Parts-makers to make Canberra pitch

Parts maker problems: Several key automotive manufacturers in Australia have downsized, sold out or closed in recent years, costing hundreds of manufacturing jobs.

Auto suppliers go on the front foot with bid for more federal aid to save industry

General News logo18 Nov 2011

AUTOMOTIVE parts-makers will take their case for renewed government support for their multi-billion-dollar industry to Parliament House in Canberra next week.

About 50 members of parliament from both sides of the House have agreed to attend events organised by the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers (FAPM) to hear the plea for help from the suppliers, who are under increasing pressure to compete against overseas manufacturers.

Several key automotive manufacturers have either downsized, sold out or shut their doors in recent years, costing hundreds of manufacturing jobs, mainly in the industry’s heartland in Victoria and South Australia, while also driving up Australia’s import bill.

Industry and innovation minister Kim Carr and his opposition shadow Sophie Mirabella have both signalled their intention to attend the FAPM events on Thursday, with opposition MPs invited to breakfast and government members to lunch.

The format follows a similar event held by the car-makers through the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) in August.

FAPM chief executive officer Richard Reilly told GoAuto he had been impressed by the FCAI event as a way of getting the message across to Canberra, particularly back-bench MPs.

80 center imageLeft: FAPM chief executive officer Richard Reilly. Below: Industry and innovation minister Kim Carr.

Mr Reilly said the likes of Mr Carr needed little convincing about the benefits of manufacturing to Australia, but support for continuing aid to the industry seemed to be waning among others who seemed to think the industry had had its fair share of hand-outs.

Speaking at an industry legal briefing at the HWL Ebsworth law firm office in Melbourne, Mr Reilly said the industry was not asking for simple grants but co-investment schemes in the style of the now-defunct Green Car Innovation Fund that required $3 of company investment for every $1 of government assistance.

He described the $1-for-$3 scheme as a “pretty good return on investment” for Australia, resulting in many millions of dollars in manufacturing by both car-makers and suppliers.

But he also described existing funding as “peanuts in the scheme of things”.

Mr Reilly declined to be drawn on claims that some original equipment manufacturer operations in Australia could be in jeopardy.

General Motors is weighing up the future of its Holden Commodore beyond 2018, and Ford is widely believed to have already decided to switch to a global front-drive platform for its next-generation Falcon from about 2016.

Toyota Australia recently warned striking workers at its Altona Camry factory in Victoria that such actions jeopardised the future of the plant.

Mr Reilly said parts suppliers needed to be able to adapt to the changing environment, searching out new opportunities such as alternative products and export deals in areas such as China and the United States.

Next week’s event will be Senator Carr’s second face-to-face meeting with the FAPM in three weeks, with the minister addressing a Melbourne meeting of the organisation recently.

He pledged that the government would not give up on the car industry.

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