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07 Feb 2012

Subject: Government support for the automotive industry

Interviewer: Alex Kirk


KIRK: As manufacturing continues to shed jobs and the Government seeks to corner the opposition on employment policy it's taken heart from the latest poll on taxpayer subsidies for the car industry.

A Nielsen poll has found 85 percent of Labor voters support the current government subsidy, the $1.5 billion Automotive Transformation Package that stretches till 2021, so do 76 per cent of Coalition supporters, and the same goes for Greens voters.

The Manufacturing Minister Kim Carr says the Coalition should take note and reverse its policy to cut $500 million over four years.

CARR: So it's now time for Mr Abbott to rejoin the rest of this parliament in adopting a bipartisan approach to the question of jobs; jobs in the automotive industry, the automotive industry which is fundamental to our manufacturing base in this country.

KIRK: Is the Government's or Labor's own polling telling the same story?

CARR: We have similar information that in fact we see now with the Essential poll as well. There is very, very strong support in this country for governments to co-invest with the automotive industry, as there is around the world: whereby governments invest with their automotive industry. Thirteen countries around the world can do what we can do. We are in very good company, we want to stay there. And that won't happen if Mr Abbott's policies are pursued and we see the industry collapse.

KIRK: Senator Carr says the Opposition faces a voter backlash if it doesn't abandon its proposed cut.

CARR: Of course there'll be a backlash, of course there's community concern about the structural changes that are occurring in our society already. This is the time in which governments should be working with industry to secure the future of manufacturing. We would ask the Liberal Party to rethink their position because the future of the country depends upon it.

KIRK: For now the opposition's Innovation and Industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella isn't budging.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: I'm not going to base Coalition policy on one poll. Industry policy should be based on principles of economically responsible - an economically responsible vision and I will continue to be in dialogue with the stakeholders, the car industry, with the component makers, because as we know polls can change from day to day, and I want our vision and our plan to stand the test of time.

Of course people want a diversified manufacturing sector, of course people want the car industry to survive, and that's what we want to do as well.

And when you look at the greatest challenges on the industry they have been the chopping and changing of government policy. Promising things during an election campaign, then ripping them out afterwards. And we've seen the issue of sovereign risk being raised by Holden by the Government cutting $1.4 billion in funding to the industry. And they're the things that destabilise the industry.

CARR: Well we know they are talking to the automotive industry on the quiet, telling the automotive industry that this will all change. So they're playing ducks and drakes with us on this whole issue. They're maintaining one position here in Canberra, for the insiders in Canberra, and of course they tell people in the factories that they of course will change their policy.

We want to see them come clean on this. Fess up. We need a bipartisan approach in this country to secure the future of manufacturing.

MIRABELLA: What we commit to the car industry is what we will deliver because that's what we have always done. And we will ensure it is in the interests of the industry, it is in the interests of Australian manufacturing and it is based on sound economic principles.


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