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Carr urges Macfarlane to change car policy

Strong words: ALP Senator Kim Carr this week described industry minister Ian Macfarlane’s offer to tour Holden’s production lines as little more than a “walk of shame”.

Coalition under pressure as growing car lobby plans for change

Holden logo20 Sep 2013

THE former architect of Australia’s car-making future, Kim Carr, has described incoming industry minister Ian Macfarlane’s offer to tour Holden’s production lines as little more than a “walk of shame”.

According to Senator Carr, Australia’s car industry urgently needed a change of policy from the newly elected Coalition government to survive.

“In just months, General Motors Holden will make a decision about its future in Australia,” Mr Carr said in a statement. “This will have huge knock-on effects for the rest of the industry.

“(Industry) Minister Macfarlane’s call for bipartisanship needs to extend beyond a photo opportunity in a factory. The car industry needs a real commitment.

“Without a policy change, a factory tour would be a walk of shame.” Mr Macfarlane said on Wednesday he would invite Senator Carr to join him on a tour of Holden’s Port Elizabeth car assembly line “so there’s no politics”.

“Yet under Sophie Mirabella the Coalition played the politics of division, promising to cut $500 million in investment to 2015, refusing to match a further $700 million, and planning to refer further investment to the Productivity Commission,” Senator Carr said.

“The current policy of the Liberal Party would see an end to the car industry in this country.” Speaking on ABC radio yesterday, Mr Macfarlane said he wanted to get Australian car-makers “on an even keel”.

"I'm a huge fan of the Australian car industry,” he said. “The first text I sent after the announcement as minister was to [Holden managing director] Mike Devereux to say ‘I want to come down and have a look at your plant’.

"I am on the side of the car industry, that's what I'm there for." South Australian independent Senator Nick Xenophon and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill are both lobbying on behalf of Holden to help the car-maker attain Commonwealth co-funding to secure a guarantee on behalf of the car-maker’ s US parent GM to build next-generation versions of the Commodore and Cruze until at least 2022.

Senator Xenophon met with Mr Macfarlane on Wednesday to talk about the car-maker’s future in Australia, and the pair have agreed to another round of talks within a fortnight.

Senator Xenaphon’s concerns for Australia’s car-making future comes as South Australia’s Labor government stepped up its pressure on the federal coalition as it also calls for more funding to help secure Holden’s future.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill yesterday requested urgent talks with the Coalition government over the level of co-investment it intends to provide to Holden beyond 2016.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union SA state secretary John Camillo today called on the car-maker and key government stakeholders to return to the negotiating table with unions about the future of Holden.

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