News - Toyota
Toyota quits: Local industry ‘will never be the same’
Federal, state leaders vow to help workers facing axe as political blame game begins
10 Feb 2014
By TERRY MARTIN
THE federal and Victorian Coalition governments have expressed disappointment with Toyota’s decision to close its production operations in 2017, promising to work with the company and the broader automotive industry to assist the thousands of workers affected by the decision.
Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda and Toyota Australia president Max Yasuda both refused to be drawn into blaming the current political environment in which the federal government has moved to cut car industry funding and has been advised by the Productivity Commission to end all subsidies by the end of the decade.
However, leaders from both federal and state Labor parties blamed their political opponents as contributing significantly to Toyota’s downfall, with federal opposition leader Bill Shorten saying “the death of the car industry in Australia will be a damning legacy on the Abbott government”.
Industry minister Ian Macfarlane, who was told of Toyota’s decision at 4:10pm on Monday after Mr Toyoda failed to reach prime minister Tony Abbott, described the company’s announcement as “an extraordinarily significant day for the Australian industry”.
“Australian industry will never be the same,” he said.
“With this closure, it will change the face of industry, but I want to assure the workers at Toyota that firstly we understand just how difficult the period ahead will be, and that the government will work with both Toyota and the auto industry in general to make sure there are opportunities for them.
“Secondly, for those people who are involved in Australian industry, I want to assure them that there is a future for Australian industry, but it will be a different future – a future that we’ve been working towards for some time.
“This announcement by Toyota will accelerate that change.”
Mr Macfarlane said Toyota had made no specific request to Canberra for financial assistance and that discussions with the company had centred on the industrial relations process and the difficulty the company was having in bringing about changes to worker enterprise bargaining agreements.
Prime minister Abbott told reporters: “Nothing that I say can limit the impact of this devastation and disappointment today, (but) there will be better days in the future”.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten and shadow industry minister Kim Carr both said their thoughts were with the 2500 workers affected by the decision, while laying blame for the company’s demise as a manufacturer at the feet of the prime minister.
“Today is a devastating day for Toyota workers,” Mr Shorten said. “While Tony Abbott played political games, 2500 more Australians have lost their jobs.
“Tony Abbott has only been prime minister for five months – we’ve seen Holden go overseas and Toyota close.
“The death of the car industry in Australia will be a damning legacy on the Abbott government.”
Senator Carr said: “Nearly 30,000 workers in Victoria depend on the car industry. This is another social disaster brought to you by Tony Abbott.”
Victorian premier Denis Napthine, whose government drew up a detailed plan last month designed to keep Toyota Australia in business after Ford and Holden close their factories in 2016 and 2017 respectively, said he “would clearly have preferred to have had the opportunity to work through these issues with Toyota and the federal government”.
“My thoughts go immediately to Toyota workers and their families as well as workers across the supply chain,” he said.
“The Victorian Coalition government stands ready to do everything we can to support workers and their families.
“I have advised the prime minister’s office that Victoria will be seeking a commitment from the federal Coalition government for a significant and comprehensive adjustment package, to assist workers at Toyota and affected suppliers in the automotive industry.”
Mr Napthine added that Victoria has “a diverse and robust economy which has created 50,000 jobs in the past three years”.
“The Victorian economy has been identified as best placed to take advantage of the Asian century and capitalise on growth opportunities which will provide benefits across the state’s economy,” he said.
State opposition leader Daniel Andrews also said his thoughts went out to automotive workers and their families – “and every other Victorian worker who is worried about their future” – but criticised Mr Napthine’s government for not doing enough to save the car industry.
“This is yet another shocking blow to a state still reeling from Ford and Holden’s exit,” he said.
“Denis Napthine will forever be remembered as the premier who stood by and did nothing while the car industry died.
“Ford left, Holden left, and he should have done something. Now Toyota’s gone and it’s too late to do anything.
“Fifty thousand Victorian workers needed a jobs plan but Denis Napthine failed every single one of them.
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