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$300m will save car-makers: Carr

Cash for content: Shadow industry minister Kim Carr says a departmental report prepared before the election showed saving Holden would cost $150 million a year, while the whole industry would survive on $300 million.

Shadow industry minister puts $300m-a-year price on saving auto industry

9 Dec 2013

AUSTRALIA’S car-making industry could be saved for $300 million a year, the former minister in charge of its fate has revealed.

Senator Kim Carr revealed today that the Coalition Government had access to documents spelling out that Holden alone had requested an extra $150 million a year to survive, while propping up the entire industry would cost about $300 million a year.

Senator Carr told ABC’s NewsRadio this morning that the lifeline level of funding was revealed in documents drafted for the former Department of Innovation in the lead-up to September’s federal election.

"For $300 million a year, Holden, Toyota and 160 component manufacturing companies plus all the suppliers that flow from there can be preserved but the Government does not want to face up to its responsibilities," Senator Carr said.

He said there were elements within the coalition who did not want US car-making giant General Motors, via its subsidiary Holden, in Australia.

"They have this ideological obsession, a hatred for the automotive industry and that's being played out to the point where hundreds of thousands of Australian workers will be sacrificed on the altar of this economic fundamentalism,” Senator Carr said.

According to Senator Carr, the $150 million figure for Holden and the $300 million to preserve the rest of the industry was outlined in a review drafted by senior departmental officials ahead of the election, and was readily available to the government.

Mr Abbott late last week reaffirmed that there would be no more taxpayer support available for Toyota and Holden, Australia’s two remaining car-makers after Ford announced earlier this year that it would stop making the Falcon large car and ute range, and Territory soft-roader from late 2016.

The future of the car-maker swung into the national spotlight late last week after the ABC revealed that senior government ministers said Holden had already made a decision to pull out of Australia as early as 2016.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has since denied a decision on the car-maker’s future had already been communicated to the government, and called on the ABC to name its sources.

Holden chief executive Mike Devereux is expected to appear before the Productivity Commission inquiry into the future of the automotive industry tomorrow, however, as of late this morning he is yet to be confirmed as attending. The commission is running a series of public hearings ahead of handing down an interim report into the state of the industry on December 20.

However, the question remains over how committed Holden is to staying in Australia, with reports last week saying senior ministers within the Abbott government were told Holden’s parent GM had already made a decision to back down from making cars in Australia from as early as 2016.

Holden is currently in talks with government to secure funding for two new models that it plans to build on its Adelaide-based production line, as well as a new version of the Commodore based on a global car platform.

Meanwhile, Toyota is deep in talks with its Japanese parent company over a range of austerity measures it hopes will give it the rights to build the next-generation Camry here.

The car-maker revealed at its presentation to the Productivity Commission last week that it had set a 2014 deadline for making a decision on the future of its Melbourne-based production line.

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