Labor’s former industry minister Kim Carr says the Federal Government could save Holden for an extra $150 million per year, and secure the entire Australian automotive industry by spending an extra $300 million per year.
Senior Government ministers have told the ABC they believe Holden is on the verge of announcing it will cease production in Australia as early as 2016, but Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane says no decision has been made.
On Friday Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared there would be no more money for the car company, and called on it to come clean about what it had planned for its Australian operations.
But Senator Carr has told Newsradio the Government has known for some time that preserving Holden’s Australian operations would cost around $150 million extra per year.
“For $300 million a year, Holden, Toyota and 160 component manufacturing companies plus all the suppliers that flow from there can be preserved but the Government does not want to face up to its responsibilities,” he said.
He says the claims are based on documents drafted by senior officials in the Department of Innovation in the lead-up to the last election that the Coalition has had access to.
The ministers who briefed the ABC believe the decision about Holden’s exit was made by its parent company in Detroit, General Motors, as part of a global restructure.
An announcement by General Motors that it will no longer sell the Chevrolet to Europe has added weight to their claims.
The ABC has been told the announcement on Holden’s exit was supposed to be made during the week, but has been put off until early next year due to balance-sheet issues.
‘Ideological obsession’ costing Australia jobs: Carr
Senator Carr says the Government is putting ideology ahead of Australian jobs.
“There are dries within the Liberal Party are trying to force General Motors of out Australia,” he said.
“They have this ideological obsession, a hatred for the automotive industry and that’s being played out to the point where hundreds of thousands of Australian workers will be sacrificed on the altar of this economic fundamentalism.”
The Government has asked the Productivity Commission to carry out a full review of car industry assistance, and Mr Abbott was expected to wait until the review was handed down before making any decisions.
However his declaration on Friday that there was no more money for Holden sparked urgent requests for meetings from the ACTU and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill.
Mr Weatherill says he will meet Mr Abbott in Canberra on Thursday, and is calling on the Prime Minister to reinstate the $500 million it pledged to cut from the industry when in opposition.
“We need to get a very clear message through to him that this is now a matter of urgency,” he said.
“The Commonwealth Government needs to put back on the table the money they took off, the $500 million that they took out of auto assistance.
“This gives the best possible chance of securing a future for Holden.”
Research released last month suggested that Holden’s closure would cost the South Australian economy $1.24 billion and 13,200 jobs alone.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) says Toyota would be likely to follow suit, meaning the end of the Australian automotive industry.
In that case, up to 50,000 jobs could be lost across the country, with second and third-tier suppliers also forced to close their operations.
Ford announced in May it would close its Australian operations by October 2016.