Opposition Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd says the Australian vehicle industry could have a future with locally built hybrid-electric vehicles.
He revives a Labor promise first made last March that, if elected in the Nov. 24 federal vote, a Labor government will provide A$500 million ($458.1 million) for a ‚Äúgreen car innovation fund‚ÄĚ to back development of HEVs.
‚ÄúOne of the practical things we can do to assist manufacturing is to provide assistance with innovation,‚ÄĚ he says.
Under the Labor Party plan, industry will be asked to match a $500 million government contribution on a one-to-three-dollar basis.
‚ÄúAustralia simply can‚Äôt afford any more short-term fixes in its car industry,‚ÄĚ a party statement says. ‚ÄúThe Green Car Innovation Fund is a long-term plan designed to secure jobs and protect the environment.‚ÄĚ
The Labor Party says it would set up an industry taskforce to work in partnership to implement the plan that would see the A$500 million fund flow over a 5-year period beginning in 2011.
Meantime, Prime Minister John Howard, commenting on a newspaper report the government has been told up to three of the four domestic car manufacturers are in jeopardy, says the industry has received adequate financial support from the federal government.
‚ÄúThere has to come a point where you can‚Äôt just go on giving more and more,‚ÄĚ Howard says.
Despite denials from Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries CEO Andrew McKellar, The Australian newspaper is sticking to its story that car makers have written to the government outlining fears about the industry‚Äôs viability.
The newspaper says concerns were conveyed verbally by senior car executives, who warned ‚Äúunion trouble or higher wages would be a poison arrow‚ÄĚ for local car manufacturing.
The submission from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) to Howard warned of possible closure next year ofMotors Australia Ltd.‚Äôs car plant in Adelaide, and raised questions over the viability of Motor Co. of Australia Ltd. and GM Holden Ltd. operations.
None of Australia‚Äôs four vehicle makers would comment on the political row, something predicted in the DPMC report.
‚ÄúIt is important to note that as the industry is very keen to maintain its relationships, and appears fearful of union retribution, that concerns noted above will not be expressed publicly by the car companies,‚ÄĚ it says.
South Australian Treasurer Kevin Foley says it‚Äôs all a political ploy by the car industry to leverage more government assistance during an election campaign.
Foley says there is no new ‚Äúdoom and gloom‚ÄĚ around theoperation.
‚ÄúSee it for what it is,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs not a greater seeker of assistance than the car industry in this world.‚ÄĚ
Industry Minister Ian McFarlane tells The Australian industry representatives had repeatedly made clear to him their concerns about increases in union power leading to problems including higher wages and disruption to production.
‚ÄúThe industry is particularly susceptible to (union-led work stoppages),‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúIt only takes industrial action against one supplier to bring the whole supply chain to a complete stop.‚ÄĚ