Shadow industry minister Kim Carr insists Australia can revive its automotive industry – but warns it will look very different.
A special guest at the Manufacturing Matters conference held at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday, the senator took several questions from an audience made up of industry leaders and thinkers.
One member of the audience described the decisions that led Australia’s automotive sector to the brink of closure as the worst in the country’s history.
However, while the doors are set to close at Toyota later this year, Carr believes there is still scope to rebuild the sector.
“I agree with most of what [the gentleman] said except that he says this is the end of the automotive industry in Australia,” Carr told the conference.
“We still have many top tier suppliers and, whatever happens, there will be thousands of companies who will continue to employ workers [in the automotive sector].
“What we won’t be doing is making fully-produced vehicles, but we do have a significant number of manufacturers [making] a major contribution to the supply chain.”
Carr, who gave a speech about the future of manufacturing in Australia, also reflected on the car industry in the UK, which saw major foreign automakers – notably from Japan – establish factories in the country during the 1980s.
“After the Margaret Thatcher era, it took a long time for the country to understand what they had lost [in the automotive industry],” Carr said.
“If you look at the country now, across the political system the automotive sector is critical to the UK’s manufacturing capability.
“They have rebuilt a manufacturing industry and is now one of the largest automotive exporters in Europe.
“It proves there is the capacity to rebuild and we would have to think hard about the different ways we could do it [in Australia]. I am up for that.”