Prime Minister Tony Abbott says his government will offer hope to Holden workers affected by the company’s decision to stop building cars in Australia.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says it is a “sad, bad day” for Australian manufacturing and has pledged a strategic response to help workers affected by Holden’s decision to stop making cars locally from 2017.
The government will in the coming days release a “considered package” of measures to rebuild confidence in the long-term future of manufacturing and the regions of Adelaide and Melbourne where Holden operates, he told parliament on Wednesday.
“I don’t want to pretend to the parliament that this is anything other than a dark day for Australian manufacturing,” Mr Abbott said.
But Australia had strengths in component manufacturing, research and development, higher education and biomedical science that could be built upon, he said.
“The government will be announcing measures in coming days that … will offer hope for the people of the regions impacted,” Mr Abbott said.
Holden’s announcement was not entirely unexpected but was “very bad news” that would cost 2900 jobs at the car maker and put at risk thousands more in up to 150 suppliers, he said.
Mr Abbott said it was time for a strategic response to the difficulties in manufacturing, and particularly in the motor industry.
“It is not the time to play politics, it’s not the time to indulge in the blame game, it’s not the time to peddle false hope,” the prime minister said.
“It’s a time for a candid and constructive conversation with the Australian people, and it is time for a considered and constructive response from government.
“And that’s exactly what this government will be providing in coming days.”
Mr Abbott said there was no way he could gloss over the fact this was “a sad, bad day” for Holden workers, their families and communities.
But he said there had been hard times before and Australian industrial centres had come through.
“They have flourished through hard times,” he said, citing Newcastle’s growth after BHP ceased steelmaking.
Adelaide in particular had suffered a series of knocks, including Mitsubishi ending operations.
“But there is much that we can be hopeful and optimistic about in the resilience of the South Australian economy, particularly if government can do all that is necessary to ensure that the Olympic Dam mine expansion goes ahead,” he said.
“There will be better days ahead.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten accused the government of daring Holden to sack people, saying the coalition knows the “price of everything and the value of nothing”.
Mr Shorten said the opposition were “appalled” by the government’s handling of crisis, which he likened to a high stakes game of poker.
“A major company who has been building motor cars in this country since after the Second World War has effectively been goaded to give up on this country,” the Labor leader told parliament.
“Today, some in the government have got what they wanted.
“There has been a game of high stakes political poker played and unfortunately the bluff was called and the losers are thousands of Australian automotive workers and their families.”
Mr Shorten said something had changed between Holden and the government in the past 24 hours.
“They were told by the federal government of Australia, who were elected to govern for all, that there would be no more support, no more investment, and I believe, that Holden were pushed,” he said.
Mr Shorten called on Mr Abbott to urgently step in.
“(He needs) to deal with the mess and chaos that has occurred in his absence,” he said.
He added that he didn’t believe it was inevitable that Holden had to stop manufacturing in Australia.
“We understand that structural change happens in the Australian economy, what we don’t understand is when the Australian government tries to sabotage its own industry,” Mr Shorten said, which prompted Treasurer Joe Hockey to storm out of the parliament.
Mr Shorten finished by saying that while he agreed with Mr Abbott that it was “a sad, bad day” for Holden workers, it was a result of a “sad, bad government”.