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Union seeks assurances from industry minister

Crucial times: The AMWU has warned of the "flat earthers in Cabinet" that don't support local manufacturing.

AMWU to seek more long-term funding to keep car industry alive

General News logo11 Oct 2013

THE union representing car industry workers has said it would seek out “detailed assurances” on long-term funding when it gets its chance to sit down with new industry minister Ian Macfarlane.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said yesterday that it would seek a meeting with Mr Macfarlane “once the minister had a clearer view of the requirements of the major manufacturers”.

Mr Macfarlane has met with management from both Ford and Toyota in the last fortnight to thrash out issues associated with a pre-election federal coalition promise to cut $500 million in funding from the car-making industry’s government support packages.

The industry is also awaiting a Productivity Commission review of car-making assistance that is due by the end of 2014 – a factor that could mean a decision on the government’s future support of the industry may come too late for some.

Mr Macfarlane has since promised an interim report by December.

AMWU vehicle division national secretary Dave Smith said the union would seek assurance from the minister that the new federal government would continue to apply policy “which will sustain the car manufacturing industry in Australia through adequate co-investment”.

“Manufacturing does have it’s supporters within the Liberal Party but there are also some flat earthers in Cabinet,” Mr Smith said.

“They have to go beyond their ideological rhetoric to understand there are real jobs at stake here, with unemployment expected to rise in many parts of the country, the last thing vulnerable communities can afford is to have 100,000 jobs lost from the auto industry.

“I think this minister certainly realises that.”

Mr Smith said Mr Macfarlane’s comments that he would not give up on any car-maker in Australia were encouraging.

Of particular concern to the union is the state of $1.38 billion in unspent funding available as part of the Automotive Transformation Scheme that expires in 2015, and the impact that the $500 million in funding cuts would have on the availability of the unspent money in the scheme.

According to the union, Mr Macfarlane has said the remaining money would be available for the industry without needing specific Cabinet approval.

Mr Smith also welcomed the minister’s comment that a further $1 billion promised by the outgoing Labor government for co-investment to 2020 was there “for keeps.”

The union has also said it would support any action on Mr Macfarlane’s recognition that tax policies of free trade agreement partners such as Thailand had effectively blocked Australian exports.

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