Today’s evidence to the Senate Inquiry on the future of Australia’s automotive industry has revealed that chaos and disarray reign in the Abbott Government’s response to imminent job losses in the sector.
Members of the Senate Economics Committee heard from officers from the Departments of Industry, Employment, Education and Training, Human Services and Social Services.
The fact that not one of these Departments has a clear understanding of the number of people currently employed in the automotive industry or the number of people who will soon be unemployed demonstrates the Abbott Government’s total disregard of auto industry workers and their families at their greatest time of need.
When asked about the likely unemployment impacts of auto closures, the Department of Industry referred the Committee to the Department of Employment. The Department of Employment then referred the Committee to the Department of Industry.
When officers from the Departments of Human Services and Social Services were asked about the unemployment impact, they said it was a matter for the Department of Employment.
When asked how the government would support the retraining and reskilling of auto workers in the component manufacturing supply chain, the Department of Education and Training responded that it is “up to the States”.
Ministers MacFarlane, Abetz, Morrison and Pyne have a lot to answer for given the complete lack of coordination and communication across their Departments when we are facing a once-in-a-generation crisis.
When the Abbott Government did so much to drive the automotive industry out of the country, it is simply not good enough for Ministers to pass the buck now that the consequences of their decisions must be dealt with.
According to previous government estimates, there are almost 50,000 people directly employed in automotive manufacturing. Independent experts estimate that upwards of 200,000 people rely indirectly on this industry for work.
Modelling from the University of Adelaide states that the loss of automotive manufacturing will cause a $29 billion hit to GDP.
Even the Productivity Commission estimates that 40,000 people may lose their jobs as a result of auto closures.
Despite these alarming figures, there is no whole-of-government response to the crisis. The Abbott Government’s piecemeal and haphazard approach is a disgrace.
It is clear that urgent action is needed to address the Abbott Government’s appalling mismanagement of this issue to date.