Minister Kim Carr says he is optimistic about Australia’s ability to emerge from the tough economic climate with a healthy automotive industry, but insisted the future could not be secured without a concerted effort from the government and Australia’s three remaining local manufacturers – Toyota, Holden and Ford.
“I’m absolutely confident we can pull through this, but we have to go at it hard,” Carr said at a press briefing this morning in Canberra. “We have to make sure that we work closely with companies to attract the new investment. We have to make sure that the government understands its obligations to the Australian people to secure the jobs for the future.
“I remain confident that the Australian automotive industry will pull through these difficult times.”
Carr described the automotive industry as the “foundation stone on which Australian manufacturing is built” and said it remains “absolutely central” to the government’s mission of securing the jobs of almost one million Australians who work in manufacturing.
“We want to go beyond the mining boom," he said. "We want to be able to ensure that when the mining boom comes to an end we still have a strong manufacturing sector in this country.”
As Toyota Australia president and CEO Max Yasuda explained yesterday, Carr said the high Australian dollar was a key factor in the reduced demand for local vehicle exports, the reduced competitiveness of local manufacturing facilities and the decline in production volume.
He admitted the Australian dollar was expected to remain high for some time – foreshadowing more pain for the industry – but said it was crucial the government and local manufacturers worked hard now to ensure they were prepared to take advantage of export opportunities when the dollar went back down.
“That’s what we’re doing now. We’re working with the companies to secure the future of our capabilities so that we have the wherewithal to attract the new investment, the new opportunities, for future investment growth and job growth.”
Carr said the future of the industry would involve the introduction of global models, rather than fully Australian-developed vehicles as we have seen in the past. He admitted the industry would need to at least maintain its current levels of capacity, design and engineering to be viable in the future.
The government has plans for the local automotive industry that run through to 2021, but this long-term view is not shared by Toyota, with Yasuda admitting he is making no plans for Toyota Australia beyond the next five years.
Carr admitted future investment options in Australia’s manufacturing industry would need to be examined closely and based on a “very sound business case”.
“We have to look to the future with confidence because the alternative is just so shocking for so many hundreds of thousands of workers.”