Industry green as fund scrapped

THE Gillard Government’s decision to scrap the Green Car Fund to support flood relief has come as a shock to Australian car manufacturers.

Local companies are outraged at the decision, which will see Canberra removing $429 million that had been guaranteed to support development programs for locally-built cars and components. 

The Green Car Fund, announced in 2008, promised grants for local companies who manufactured ‘greener’ or more environmentally-friendly cars. Both Holden and Toyota took advantage of the Fund with Toyota’s Camby Hybrid – Australia’s first hybrid car – and the Holden Cruze, a new small, more fuel-efficient car.

Toyota even built an entirely-new engine plant off the back of the Green Car Fund, manufacturing four-cylinder engines for its locally-made hybrid Camry range.

Now, three years later, the Government has scrapped the fund to help Australian families and their communities who have been devastated by the floods in Queensland, regional Victoria and New South Wales.

Though the decision to help these people in need is noble, the industry says cutting important, job-creating programs to save the budget surplus is a mad idea that will eventually bite Australia’s economy on the bum.

Despite the global financial crisis, Australian automotive manufacturers were one of the few areas of the industry that continued to turn a profit, and continued to create new, innovative technologies and ideas. 

The automotive sector employs 60,000 people across the country, and continues to drive innovation in materials like plastics, metals and electronics. Automotive manufacturers remain the first to employ new manufacturing processes, and their contribution to Australia’s industry should not be taken for granted.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) national secretary, Dave Oliver, says the decision to scrap the Green Car Fund was avoidable, and the Government should dump its obsession with budget surplus, not industry programs.

“The obsession with returning the Federal Budget to surplus is damaging industry and job creation programs which are all the more important to Australia’s economic recovery in the wake of the Queensland floods,” said Oliver.

“Australia cannot afford to cancel plans to help our industries gear up for 21st century environmental standards, and job opportunities such as manufacturing fuel efficient, hybrid, solar and electric cars.”

The Green Car Fund isn’t the only program to be crossed out, with Solar Flagships and other climate change industry programs being dumped.

According to Oliver, this news is not in the long-term interests of Australia.

“Australia cannot afford to cancel plans to help our industries gear up for 21st century environmental standards, and job opportunities such as manufacturing fuel efficient, hybrid, solar and electric cars,” he said.

“The Government should adapt the budget to the circumstances created by the Queensland floods, rather than altering the future of our economy to suit the nominal goal of a surplus.”

Local manufacturing relies on future-looking schemes like the Green Car Fund, and car-makers across Australia are outraged at the news. Not only will future innovation suffer, but those that have already invested in schemes, including Holden and Toyota, are worried that the cuts will threaten projects already in the pipeline and drive them offshore.

I urge the Government to re-think these cuts. Gillard should be helping local car manufacturers who make more sustainable vehicles, not leaving them in the lurch after promises of assistance. 

Scrapping the Green Car Fund is bad news for Australia’s automotive industry, and will result in dire circumstances for the Australian economy in the future. Think forwards, Gillard, not backwards.

Image courtesy of Drive.com.au

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