Defenders of government funding say the automotive and parts-making industries employ more than 200,000 Australians, and many of those jobs could disappear without continued assistance.
Critic of subsidies says GM Holden out of touch with consumers.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union launches a petition calling on all members of the federal parliament to continue supporting the nation’s automotive industry.
The action is a response to cuts in industry funding proposed by the Coalition, a formal alliance of the Liberal and National parties.
AMWU National Secretary Dave Oliver says hundreds of workers have signed the petition, which calls for opposition leader Tony Abbott to cancel the proposed rollbacks, which the union says threatens auto industry jobs.
, and GM Holden build vehicles in Australia. ended local production in 2008.
“Despite the car industry’s value to Australia, the Coalition (is) set to end their support for the industry by refusing to commit to any assistance beyond 2015, denying the industry A$1 billion ($1.06 billion) in the years to 2020,” Oliver says in a statement.
The automotive and auto-components industries pay more than 200,000 Australians' wages, he says. The Coalition's policy is short-sighted and would send a death rattle through all Australian manufacturing, not just the automotive sector.
“The Coalition's policy jeopardizes manufacturing jobs today and for the next generation,” Oliver says. “A sustainable car-manufacturing industry must be a partnership between car companies, workers and their unions, and all sides of politics.
“Unless the Coalition provides that commitment, there's grave doubt over whether we can build the innovative, resilient and globally competitive industry this country wants and needs.”
Oliver says new polling confirms Abbott is out of touch with the community on government support for manufacturing and the auto industry in particular.
The polling by Essential Research shows 68% of voters support current assistance to the industry, including 72% of Liberal/National voters.
But former Victoria state Premier Jeff Kennett says he believes Australia will be down to just one auto maker within the next few years as the car companies struggle with a high Australian dollar, the high cost base of local producers and changing consumer trends.
Kennett, premier from 1992 to 1999, led negotiations that sawAustralia expand its plant outside Melbourne.
“'We don't have a right as a nation to be a car builder,” he tells The Age newspaper. “I can see another two car companies going in the next year to two years. This is about consumers exercising their choice and Australian retailers and manufacturers, in the main, not responding to those changes.
“'NeitherHolden nor has developed a product, out of all the money they have received from the A$3 billion ($3.2 billion) innovation fund, that has captured the imagination of the Australian public over and above imported cars.”
, and all produced in Australia at some stage in their history and now are gone. But, says Kennett, “The world didn't come to an end.”