The boss of Holden has called on both sides of Australia’s political spectrum to settle their differences and agree to support the local automotive sector ahead of what he believes will be a defining year for the industry.
Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux told reporters in Melbourne the future of Australia’s automotive industry would become “very, very difficult” if Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott turn the issue into a “he said/she said” debate in the lead-up to next year’s federal election.
“I believe that 2013 will be a year where Australia decides whether it wants to have an auto industry or not,” Devereux said.
“My hope is that the auto industry is not an election issue and that it is a bipartisan issue in the election cycle for next year.”
Holden announced a co-investment deal in March that will see the local car maker receive $275 million from the federal, South Australian and Victorian governments as well as more than $1 billion from Detroit-based parent company General Motors to assist with the local development and production of two all-new vehicles between now and 2022.
The Federal Opposition has committed to honouring the $215 million commitment made by the Labor Government if elected next year.
Devereux called on the both sides of government to support a fresh review of the automotive sector, insisting such a study was fundamental to creating the kind of contemporary long-term policy that was required to shore up Australia’s car-making future and ensure our local industry becomes competitive with those in other countries.
“I think that there will need to be a review of auto policy no matter who is elected into government next year,” he said.
“In the same way that there was a Button review [in the 1980s], that there was a Bracks review in 2008, I think there needs to be another broad-based review of both manufacturing and auto policy, and I think that is absolutely irrespective of which party takes power. It is a country issue, not a political issue.”
Devereux said the review needed to deliver “truth and perspective” on the state of the industry.
“I know what the answer will be,” he said. “When you actually understand the way the game is played globally and you don’t have a bunch of BS injected into it you will come up with what is the truth, and the truth is the country can and should afford to have a competitive co-investment scheme no different than the basic architecture of the one that exists in the UK.”
Devereux made special mention of the resurgent British automotive industry, which – thanks in part to support from both sides of government – has attracted $10 billion in foreign investment from automakers over the past two years and created tens of thousands of jobs.
“We will need that kind of a policy to be able to build things here from 2015 to 2022.
“Three to four years from now for that next cycle of investment this debate will be exactly the same debate. Do we want to have a public/private partnership around 2015 to guarantee the same types of decisions from 2022 to 2030?
“Those policy settings need to be in place for an auto industry to exist at any time in this country, whether it’s pre or post the change of government – if there is a change of government.
“Make no mistake, Australia has to have contemporary policy that gives us certainty over time and that is competitive with other countries.”