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08 Feb 2012
Subject: Australia's automotive industry  

Interviewer: Lyndal Curtis


HOST: Mr Carr has told political leader Lyndal Curtis - political editor rather, Lyndal Curtis that if no help is provided, thousands of Australian jobs will be lost.

CARR: These are people that have put a great deal into the future of this country. They have invested - just as people invest money, they've invested their lives. And they've stood by, these firms, working during the economic crisis to be able to produce ongoing viable businesses. And they're entitled to our support now that the dollar has reached the levels that it has which has undermined so dramatically our case for exports.

So we are working with the industry - and that means both people who are management and people who work on the shop floor - to ensure the viability of the industry well into the future.

CURTIS: Given the state of the dollar, given the dollar is predicted to be high for some time, are car industry workers worried about their jobs?

CARR: Yes, they are. People are worried right across this country about the shape of the economic transformation that we are now witnessing, the economic transformation that has come about as a result of the massive increases in the value of the dollar. We're seeing that businesses across this country are being reshaped as they adjust, as they adapt, as they move to establish themselves in a more competitive position.

And the automotive industry, of course, is faced with acute pressures in that regard because we know around the world governments invest very heavily in their automotive industry because they know of its value, and they want to see value for their money, and so does the Australian Government.

And we know that the automotive industry is absolutely vital to the future of manufacturing in Australia.

CURTIS: But isn't the message to those workers worried about jobs is that the billions of dollars tipped in the Federal Government, even your commitment to keep doing that, doesn't necessarily save their jobs, does it?

CARR: Well, what it does do is ensure new investment, and new investment is the key to the productivity gains for the future. New investment is the key to the new products, it's the key to the new jobs, the high skilled, high wage jobs for Australians.

CURTIS: But the car companies have been cutting jobs already so jobs are going now. And you can't guarantee, can you, that as you move to what you want to be - a high-tech future - that further jobs won't go?

CARR: The reality is since about 1960 Australia has employed about a million people in manufacturing. The output in that period has driven dramatically upwards, huge increases in productivity. There are always going to be changes in businesses as we adapt to the economic conditions that we face at any particular time.

Workers know that. Workers are mature in their outlook. They know however that without the new investment there are no jobs. Without the new investment we're not going to be able to see the new economic opportunities open up for them and for their kids. And they know that the Government's co-investment with industry is the key to success for the automotive industry, as do 13 other governments around the world who enjoy the same approach.

CURTIS: You chopped and changed the assistance you give to the car industry. You announce some things, you pull on some funding, then you put money back in. Why are you expecting the Opposition to commit to funding beyond 2015 when you've already chopped and changed what you promised the car industry?

CARR: We've got a new car plan that puts support right out to 2021, a new car plan which is aimed at the transformation of the industry, a new car plan which is about attracting new investment.

This is an industry that relies on long-term certainty. The Australian Government, under Labor, provides that certainty. Under the Liberal Party, you won't get that certainty. You won't get that commitment to the future. You won't get that commitment to investment past December 2015. That means that the industry will fall over. That means that hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost if Mr Abbott doesn't change his mind had he ever got the chance of implementing those policies.

CURTIS: Don't your warnings now sound similar to the warnings Tony Abbott has been making about the carbon tax that at some future time there will be thousands of jobs lost?

CARR: No. What we know is the certainty of the way in which this industry operates. What we know now is the international experience of the way in which this industry operates. What we know now is that our policies work. We know that we're able to adapt to difficult times and we know we are able to secure jobs for the future. And we do that by working in partnership with the industry to attract the new investment, the new technologies, the new production processes, the new products. And we know that that's the best way to secure the high wage, high skilled jobs for Australians into the future.

CURTIS: Finally, Minister, if I could ask you about your own portfolio. You of course lost Cabinet ranking in the Cabinet reshuffle and a large part of what had been an industry portfolio. It was said at the time you were able to be demoted because you weren't in the House of Representatives. You must have been disappointed with that?

CARR: Look, I get on with my job; I get on with serving the million Australians in manufacturing. It is an honour to serve those people and I'll be doing all I can to secure their future.

CURTIS: Couldn't you do that better though if you were able to bring together the threads of manufacturing and industry and innovation?

CARR: Well, we can talk about that all you like, but the truth of the matter is my commitment is to the million Australians and their future.

CURTIS: Kim Carr, thank you very much for your time.

CARR: Thank you.


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