HOST: Our Shraysi Tandon in Australia caught up with the country's minister in charge of manufacturing who began by putting the Aussie's gains in context.
KIM CARR: The Australian dollar is now trading at some 40 per cent higher than the 30-year average since the floating of that dollar. Now, that's in terms on a trade-weighted index basis. Now you have an increase of that dimension, you must have an effect on the business case.
REPORTER: Former RBA Governor Bernie Fraser recently said that the Government blames all its manufacturing woes on the high Australian dollar. Do you think that you use the high Australian dollar as a scapegoat?
CARR: We've always said that companies need to be internationally competitive. They need to be more productive.
We've also said that companies need to spend more money on transforming themselves to meet head-on the international competition that, of course, they have to deal with.
What the latest PMI figures show us is that in some sectors there is, of course, a better chance to deal with this circumstance than in others.
REPORTER: You've recently been in talks with executives from Toyota. What are some of the issues you were addressing with them?
CARR: We back companies that back themselves. We back companies that are prepared to invest in themselves and that's what we're doing within the automotive industry, we're working with individual companies and every one of them is different but we are working within the industry as a whole to encourage businesses to be able to invest in themselves to overcome these difficulties.
REPORTER: The carbon tax is slated to kick in in a few months. How is the Government going to help industry cope with the new pressure?
CARR: We provide very substantial assistance, very, very substantial assistance and that - for instance, in the automotive industry, the figures of $400 a car are being bandied about, they're just not right. They're just not correct. The average figure is about $53 per car but there is much more compensation provided to be able to allow manufacturers to invest in new equipment and new industrial processes to make sure that they are able to modernise their plants.
REPORTER: The Government has consistently spoken about compensation for industry but are subsidies really the answer?
CARR: We don't see it as subsidies. It is a misnomer to suggest that. This is about co-investment and on a general rule of thumb companies spend about three dollars for every one dollar that we put in, in investing in their own futures.
REPORTER: Minister, the recent focus has been the automotive industry but what about the steel industry?
CARR: We provide assistance across the board but, you know, it has to be understood that we actually provide more assistance in mining, twice the amount of assistance in agriculture, so what we do, like all governments around the world, is to ensure that we have the key strategic capabilities that our economy needs to provide a balanced economic opportunities for our people.