It is not the job of the Australian Industry Minister to talk down Australian manufacturing industries, rather than support and advocate for them.
Once again Industry Minister Greg Hunt seems to have missed the memo: having earlier this week said he would redefine the idea of innovation, he has now told struggling industries that he is “raising the drawbridge” on government support.
The Minister’s remarks in today’s Australian Financial Review show that the Turnbull Government’s industry policy is identical to that of the previous Abbott Government:
“This Government will be very loath to consider requests for subsidies. We will be very loath to do for businesses in trouble, the sorts of things that they ought to be doing for themselves and the sorts of things which the private sector commercial arrangements should potentially at least be doing for them.”
[Tony Abbott, Press Conference 18 December 2013]
It is clear that the Turnbull Government is as equally committed to pursuing an industry policy that leaves local manufactures vulnerable and out in the cold.
On automotive manufacturing, Mr Hunt conveniently fails to mention that it was the Liberal Government that goaded Holden to leave:
“It is the Australian Government’s view that GM Holden must IMMEDIATELY provide a clear explanation of its future intentions”
[Warren Truss letter to General Motors Holden, 10 December 2013]
“[I] join with the Acting Prime Minister and the government in calling on Holden to come clean with the Australian people about their intentions here. We want them to be honest about it—we want them to be fair dinkum—because, if I was running a business and I was committed to that business in Australia, I would not be saying that I have not made any decision about Australia. Either you are here or you are not.”
[Joe Hockey, Question Time 10 December 2013]
In a remarkable about-face, showing the deep divisions that still exist within the Liberal Party, the then Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane had the gall to say he was:
“disappointed that Holden hasn’t given the Australian Government the time to complete that process.”
[Ian Macfarlane, Media Release, 11 December 2013]
Independent modelling from the University of Adelaide suggests up to 200,000 jobs will be lost and there will be a negative annual shock of $29 billion or more by 2017 as a result of closures.
Closures in motor vehicle production will cost taxpayers far more to lose the industry than it ever cost in government co-investment to maintain it.
If recent remarks from Mr Hunt are anything to go by, the Turnbull Government will be singing from the same song sheet of Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey on industry policy.
And if Australian steel production is allowed to go the same way as motor vehicle manufacturing, it could prove to be the death blow to our advanced industrial capabilities.