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Govt growth fund to help automotive firms 'shift focus'

11 August, 2014

Australian automotive suppliers will be able to access assistance to diversify into other sectors with the $20 million Automotive Diversification Programme, which opened to applications last week.

The Automotive Diversification Programme is one part of the federal government's $155 million Growth Fund to drive development in new industries before the end of local car manufacturing in 2017.

The government is also preparing a National Industry Investment and Competitiveness Agenda to focus on long-term issues relating to competitiveness, productivity and job opportunities in the industries of the future.

The government is determined to ensure a strong, long-term future for Australian manufacturing, Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane said in a recent statement.

"With the Victorian and South Australian governments, we are maximising opportunities for automotive supply chain firms affected by the closure of local automotive manufacturing," Macfarlane said.

Helping firms to transition

Macfarlane said: "Supply chain firms can access the Automotive Diversification Programme to shift their focus towards the high growth industries of the future.

"This initiative will help to ensure that these firms continue to operate in Australia beyond 2017."

Victorian Minister for Manufacturing David Hodgett said the automotive supply chain was an important part of the Victorian economy, with the majority of the supply chain based there.

"This sector has significant capabilities, knowledge and proficiency in advanced and precision manufacturing techniques that are both relevant and transferable to other industries.

"This programme is about transitioning firms away from their dependence on automotive manufacturing before local car making finishes at the end of 2017.

"This programme also complements existing Victorian government initiatives aimed at connecting the automotive supply chain to business opportunities in other markets and industry sectors such as defence, construction, mining and medical technology."

South Australian MP Susan Close said automotive suppliers in Australia faced significant challenges in the years ahead will help them adapt to the new set of challenges that lay ahead.

"The Automotive Diversification Programme will help them to transform to remain competitive and cope with change," Close said.

"This programme will enable firms to take advantage of their considerable capabilities and adapt to different industries.

"It will help firms diversify by supporting R&D, re-tooling, commercialising new ideas, expanding their businesses, or to develop export capabilities by matching business contributions on a one-to-one basis."

Total figure falls far short

The opposition and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) said the $155 million allocated to the Growth Fund was nowhere near enough to support industry.

"We think $1.5 billion is needed," AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian said.

"It's the government's responsibility to ensure the workers can be retrained and that the industry can be upgraded."

Shadow Minister for Industry Kim Carr said the fund was "paltry".

He said the fund was indicative the government had "clearly failed to grasp the deep and complex consequences of the end of automotive manufacturing in Australia".

The Automotive Diversification Programme is open to applications and will run over four years, ending in 2017-18, with at least one application round per year.

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