South Australian premier blames Coalition government for Holden ending local manufacturing

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has blamed the federal Coalition in 2013 for ignoring Holden’s offer to remain based in Australia, which led to the end of Australia’s car manufacturing industry just four years later.

The last Holden car to be manufactured in Australia rolls of the production line. Image courtesy of Holden
The last Holden car to be manufactured in Australia rolls of the production line. Image courtesy of Holden

In the wake of last week’s closure of Holden’s South-Australian-based factory, Mr Weatherill said the Coalition-government led by the then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, had made a mistake in not maintaining Holden, consequently ending the car manufacturing industry in Australia in October 2017.

Mr Weatherill’s comments relate to the Coalition government’s refusal in 2013 to increase its subsidy to the Australian car-manufacturing industry, with the Abbott government wanting to cut the subsidy by $1.63b to $1.02bup to 2020 to compensate for Ford’s planned withdrawal from the Australian car manufacturing industry.

After ignoring their offer to maintain their manufacturing operations in Australia, then Treasurer Joe Hockey dared Holden to leave, with the car manufacturer announcing that it was doing just that shortly after, citing a number of issues including the high costs of production in Australia.

Mr Wetherill said the then Federal Government ignored Holden’s offer to maintain its manufacturing presence in Australia and stated that Australia “should have” kept both Holden’s domestic presence and subsequently a domestic car manufacturing industry.

“Every country in the world that has a car industry subsidies it,” he said.

“There’s about 19 countries in the world that make cars, if you want a car industry, they are the rules of the game. I think we should have kept the car industry.”

Big job losses from Holden closure

About 950 workers lost their jobs as Holden marked the end of Australian car manufacturing last Friday, 20 October, 2017, as it closed its South-Australian-based manufacturing plant in Elizabeth, north of Adelaide.

Mr Weatherill said an estimated 1,000 others would also be out of work, and that 5,000 workers had left Holden since the initial announcement in 2013 that the Coalition government would not increase its subsidy to the Australian car manufacturing industry.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union state secretary John Camillo indicated the road ahead would be difficult for many of the redundant Holden workers in terms of finding employment.

“Some have found full-time work. Some have found only part-time or causal work,” he said.

“There is some good news in regards to that, but let me tell you, those people over the age of 50 are finding it extremely difficult to find employment, so it is difficult out there, especially here in Adelaide.”

Holden human resources manager, Jamie Getgood, said the car manufacturer would help redundant workers gain new jobs over the next year, with its transition centre to remain open for 12 months.

Holden will launch 24 major vehicles and 36 new drivetrain combinations by 2020 and will continue to employ approximately 1,000 direct staff and an additional nearly 6,000 people across its 200-strong Australian dealer network.