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Engineer job losses will hurt: SAE

Downsized: Holden last week cut 45 positions, including some engineers.

Lost engineers prompts warning as new industry minister backs car-makers

17 Sep 2013

HOLDEN’S decision to sack engineers threatens the future of sustainable car manufacturing in Australia, the peak body that represents them has warned.

Society of Automotive Engineers – Australasia executive director Natalie Roberts said yesterday that the job losses announced last week – about 45 positions will go from Holden’s Port Melbourne headquarters under the latest round of voluntary redundancies sweeping the car-maker – were of “great concern” for the industry.

“Design, research and development roles such as these are the backbone of innovation and new product development in Australia, which then flows to manufacturing,” Ms Roberts said.

“This latest loss of highly skilled jobs is the continuation of a worrying trend,” she said.

“It is upsetting for society members, many of whom will be directly or indirectly impacted by this decision.

“We support our members and encourage those affected to contact us for assistance during this challenging time.”

The SAE-A’s call comes as Ian Macfarlane – Australia’s latest industry minister who served in the same role under the former Howard government – said he hoped to drive Australian-made cars for many years to come.

Mr Macfarlane revealed this morning that he had already spoken with Holden chief executive Mike Devereux – the car-maker is currently deep in talks with its Detroit-based parent company, General Motors, about securing funding to keep manufacturing here until 2020 – and would soon visit Holden’s Adelaide factory and Toyota’s Melbourne assembly lines.

"The goal is to be still building cars here well and truly into the 2020s and make sure that we've got a car that not only Australia wants to buy but also the world," Mr Macfarlane said on ABC radio.

"The Abbott government, combined with the car industry and hopefully with the unions as well, will do everything we can to give the industry every chance of being here."Meanwhile, Ms Roberts said the SAE-A advocated policies that would “enhance Australia’s clean sheet design capabilities, which provide critical economic and social dividends to the community through innovation and new technologies”.

“Under the present policy settings we are seeing a decline in Australia’s automotive engineering skills and capabilities,” she said.

“We strongly urge the Federal Government to implement the Productivity Commission review in addition to an analysis of what the underlying issues are in order to take immediate action to prevent a further weakening of the sector.

“To make effective, long-term policies, the government needs to understand where Australia’s research and development and manufacturing industries sit globally, in relation to government funding, protection and other less obvious trade barriers, such as restricted energy exports that keep the cost of manufacturing low in other countries.

“We do not believe that Australia’s engineering design, R&D and manufacturing industries receive the same level of support as our international competitors.”

Ms Roberts said automotive design, research, development and manufacturing contributed to a wide range of other industries that generated employment throughout the supply chain.

The SAE-A represents scientists, engineers and technicians working for vehicle and component manufacturers vehicle service, repair and aftermarket sectors importers, insurance services, fuel suppliers, government authorities, and students.

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