Federal Senator Ricky Muir and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) have thrown their support behind the Federal Government’s revised Automotive Transformation Scheme (ATS).
Earlier this week, the government announced $500 million that was earmarked to be cut from the scheme would again be available to the local industry in the face of an uncertain future leading up to and following 2017.
Senator Muir from the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party welcomed the policy turnaround, saying the funds could help component suppliers to remain financially viable once their three biggest customers are gone.
“This is not about hand-outs to the carmakers, it is about honouring a scheme that will ultimately help to transition the component supply chain,” Senator Muir said.
“Many of these businesses are in the process of transitioning, and the threat to pull the scheme would have seen disastrous consequences with critical component manufacturers closing and an earlier-than-anticipated exit of the carmakers highly possible.”
Senator Muir said the ATS should be tweaked to ensure the money was being spent in the appropriate areas, with a focus on assisting businesses and workers to transition.
“Our message is clear - the automotive industry is not dead,” Senator Muir said.
“Whilst it may be true we can’t compete with mass produced vehicles based on price, we can compete when it comes to quality, high-end, innovative components. We need to focus on our strengths, to ensure that we retain the high-skill sets that Australia is renowned for.”
The VACC echoed Senator Muir’s views, adding that the industry reached beyond the manufacturing set.
VACC Executive Director, Geoff Gwilym, said it is essential that Australia retains its manufacturing skills base and develops capacity further into advanced manufacturing.
“The automotive industry is not just about carmaking,” Mr Gwilym said.
“Retail, research and innovation, repairs and servicing, transport technology and information systems will continue long after the production plants have closed. It is important that all sectors of the industry have opportunities and that future employment, skills and career options are created.”
A Senate Inquiry into the local industry heard its first submissions in Melbourne this week, with second submissions to be heard in Adelaide tomorrow.
The Inquiry’s report is due to be handed down late this year.