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Canberra driving towards a plan for ailing carmakers

Holden
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The direction of the Abbott government’s manufacturing policy should become clearer after a meeting in Adelaide next week.

Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane will sit down with representatives from unions, car makers, the South Australian government and auto-sector suppliers at a forum on February 6 and 7.

The meeting follows the decisions by Ford and Holden to end their Australian manufacturing in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Mr Macfarlane said manufacturing had a future in Australia, but the manufacturing industry needed to explore new areas such as biotechnology, food processing and higher value-added products.

“We are focused on laying the foundations for the long-term future of Australian manufacturing, not on applying short-term solutions or taxpayer-funded band-aids,” the minister said.

A similar two-day event was held in Melbourne last week.

The Adelaide meeting will inform a report that will go to the government by the end of February.

The report will form the basis of how a $100 million “growth fund” will be spent to shore up jobs in SA and Victoria, with the first funds to be released in the second half of this year.

The fund is expected to help auto component manufacturers seek new business opportunities or existing businesses in other sectors create jobs for unemployed auto-sector workers.

There could also be funding to commercialise products or processes that come out of new research.

The federal government is also in talks with Victoria and SA to fast-track $8 billion in planned infrastructure projects over the next six years.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union argued in its submission to the review that the $100 million fund is inadequate and cuts in other areas of the federal budget amounted to an overall reduction in manufacturing support of $211 million.

The union has called for a more generous package comprising expanded training for workers, support for affected communities, help for supply chain diversification and investment, changes to government procurement rules and greater defence and infrastructure investment.

It has also suggested the creation of a $2.5 billion Manufacturing Finance Corporation to provide bridging funds to business.