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AMWU wants green car subsidies reinstated

Ironic: Union leader Ian Jones thinks celebrating the local Cruze launch so soon after the government's Green Car fund was scrapped is ironic.

Union leader calls on the government to bring back the Green Car fund

1 Mar 2011

A LEADING union official has used the unveiling of the Australian-made Holden Cruze to appeal directly to Prime Minister Julia Gillard to reconsider the federal government’s scrapping of the Green Car Innovation Fund (GCIF).

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union federal secretary Ian Jones said it was ironic to be celebrating the commencement of Cruze production so soon after the program was abandoned.

Mr Jones was addressing an audience that also included federal industry and innovation minister Senator Kim Carr, who has driven the GCIF, South Australian Premier Mike Rann, several other federal and state politicians, about 1000 plant employees and key senior Holden personnel.

Switching production of the Cruze – one of the key beneficiaries of the program – has created 265 new jobs at Holden Vehicle Operations in Elizabeth, South Australia.

“It would not be an understatement to say that, without the efforts of Senator Carr, we would not be standing here today,” said Mr Jones.

“(Yet) it is in a position of irony that we find ourselves celebrating this position of success whilst that policy has been abandoned.

13 center imageLeft: Australian Manufacturing Workers Union federal secretary Ian Jones. Bottom: Federal industry and innovation minister Senator Kim Carr.

“I would say to the government that they should reflect upon that because, if we look to see what this has achieved just for South Australia, then that demonstrated that those sorts of policies are sorely needed in our country.

“What I would ask from government is that … they re-engage with the industry and re-engage with the unions to develop further policy to take this industry forward, and to develop new policy that would create new job opportunities, new innovation and new product.

“When we were confronted with this new challenge, we didn’t say we couldn’t do it, we said just give us the opportunity and we will demonstrate how.” Holden boss Mike Devereux supported the AMWU plea, saying the Australian-built Cruze would not have happened without it.

“We certainly appreciate and recognise the importance of the GCIF,” said Mr Devereux.

“Ian Jones talked passionately what that fund meant to our ability to localise (the new Cruze) and there is no way we were able to do this if we didn’t have that public/private partnership.”

The government shelved the GCIF in late January in order to help pay for flood recovery efforts in Queensland and Victoria. It also dumped the proposed Cleaner Car Rebate Scheme (‘Cash for Clunkers’), which was to offer $2000 to owners of older vehicles trading up to new and greener models, and capped the LPG grant to 25,000 claims per year.

The GCIF involved a sum of $429 million that had been earmarked to support development programs for Australian-built cars and automotive components on a one dollar for three dollars basis.

Mr Carr said all contractual commitments and grant offers made by the government through the fund would be honoured, and applications received by January 27 would be processed.

As GoAuto reported at the time, the car industry immediately urged the government to re-think the cuts, fearing that projects already underway might be driven away to countries that offer similar grants to help gain new business.

Announced in December 2008, the Cruze localisation and assembly program accessed $149 million federally and $30 million from the SA Government.

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