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Toyota “handout” under fire

Money in the four-pot: Premier John Brumby (right) is defending the decision by Senator Kim Carr (left) to invest $63m of government funds in Toyota's new Altona engine plant.

Premier defends $63 million government contribution to new Altona engine project

Toyota logo13 Sep 2010


THE decision by Toyota Australia to invest $331 million in a new four-cylinder engine plant in Victoria will be crucial to underpinning the operation for many years to come, averting what would have been a slow decline in activity and employment, the Victorian premier John Brumby said.

However, the federal opposition slammed the federal government’s $63 million contribution to the cost of the plant from the Green Car Innovation Fund, saying it was “frittering away money again”.

 center imageFrom top: Federal shadow industry minister Sophie Mirabella, Toyota's Altona plant, Toyota AR 2.5-litre engine.

The new plant at Altona will make up to 110,000 2.5-litre four-cylinder engines a year for the Camry and Camry Hybrid, some of which will be exported to Toyota’s operations in Thailand and Vietnam.

Mr Brumby said Toyota’s decision to invest in Australia was a “major vote of confidence” in Victoria and the local Toyota operation.

“Had this project not gone ahead, Toyota Australia would have had to import the engines from Toyota’s Kamigo plant in Japan,” he said.

“We would have seen a measurable and regular decline at this facility over time as more and more components were imported and fewer and fewer people were employed.

“So, getting this engine for the hybrid is fundamental to keeping jobs, securing the future, and creating the optimism and confidence in our motor vehicle industry.” Ian Jones, federal secretary of the automotive section of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, said the building of a new engine plant was a positive sign for the company and the industry.

“These plants usually have a life-span of 25 to 30 years, so this suggests a secure future for the workers and the company,” he said.

The new plant will be one of six around the world that build this engine and will make Toyota Australia a significant part of Toyota’s global supply chain, further securing the future of the Altona operations, which have taken some big hits recently.

However, federal shadow industry minister Sophie Mirabella likened the $63 million investment in the new Toyota plant to the Green Car Rebate scheme unveiled by the government during the election campaign.

“Toyota made $1 billion in profit globally last year and more than $180 million profit in Australia alone,” she said.

“There are more worthy and needy causes for this $63 million than a subsidy to a profitable multinational. Given that the Altona engine plant employs 320 people, this is a subsidy of nearly $200,000 per worker.

“Mr Carr is continuing the excessive handouts that were overseen by the Rudd-Gillard Government.

“This included a grant of $35 million for the development of Toyota’s Hybrid Camry – spending that Toyota itself acknowledged wasn’t needed and that has ultimately resulted in extraordinarily poor sales figures.” Senator Carr has dismissed the allegation of poor sales, saying they are “on target”.

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