Protection not the answer for car industry: Coalition

The opposition has stepped up its attacks on taxpayer-funded subsidies for the domestic car industry, saying today's sackings by Ford show the handouts do not work.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said on Friday that the Coalition supported a ''viable'' motor industry but he said the government's policy of subsidies ''have let a lot of people down''.

''I hope that future government policies can be much more efficient,'' he said.

Ford in Victoria received a $103 million assistance package from the state and federal governments and its US parent company in January this year.

The federal government's contribution was $34 million and the state government was believed to have invested about $19 million.

But it is axing 212 jobs at Victoria's Geelong and Broadmeadows plants due to a slump in large car sales and a production reduction.

The shadow industry minister, Sophie Mirabella, said Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised Ford would create 300 jobs in return for the $34 million.

"Julia Gillard has broken her promise to create 300 new jobs and broken her election promise not to introduce a carbon tax. Labor has systematically dismantled business confidence and the economic stability that Australia used to enjoy,'' she said.

The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, has long opposed such industry assistance and declared on Friday morning that ''protection is not the answer''.

''People are not buying Australian-made cars because they don't want to buy Australian-made cars, and the cars are not meeting their demands as consumers,'' he told the Seven Network.

''The government gave $34 million to Ford in January this year, the prime minister said this is going to create an extra 300 jobs, (now) 340 jobs have gone.''

He says it is up to auto manufacturers to create cars Australian consumers want.

''Any time we go down this protection route, we lose out,'' he said.

''The bottom line is we need an efficient car, we need cars that Australians want, and then the motor vehicle industry will survive.''

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union says only 33 per cent of Australian governments' fleets are from Australian car makers, compared with 66 per cent a decade ago.

The Coalition is yet to unveil its car industry policy but the Industry Minster, Greg Combet, said it would be a ''job wrecker''.

''The manufacturing industry is undergoing significant change, particularly as a result of the high value of the Australian dollar, but Labor is committed to working with the auto sector to ensure it has a strong future,'' he said.

Dave Smith from the AMWU said that Mr Hockey's comments scream of someone out of touch with working people.

''Australians love the quality cars we produce. They may not suit former investment bankers who would only feel comfortable in something from Germany - but for many of us, driving a locally made Ford, Holden or Toyota is a matter of pride,'' he said.

''But as a former investment banker, we would expect Mr Hockey to have some idea of how market forces work. If Mr Hockey had such knowledge, he may be aware that the decrease in car sales is clearly a result of the GFC, the high Australian dollar and the tariffs imposed on our cars  - not Australians' love for our locally produced cars.

''Mr Hockey's side of politics intends to kill the car industry by cutting half a billion dollars in support. That will result in thousands of job losses and ruin the skills and innovation that feed our manufacturing  industry.''

Follow the National Times on Twitter

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop