Coalition government would want automotive exports to improve: Abbott

The debate over subsidies to the automotive sector continues, with opposition leader Tony Abbott yesterday suggesting that he wants to see the country’s car manufacturers' exports improve.

The Australian Financial Review reports that the Coalition has said it would continue $1.5 billion in assistance to the industry past 2015, but Abbott wants Australian car sales overseas to pick up, singling out Ford.

“I want to see the motor industry survive and flourish in this country,” the AFR reports him as saying.

“What we have to do over time is get it more geared to export because our motor plants, particularly Ford, are really only manufacturing for the domestic industry.

“Given domestic demand, they tend to be getting a smaller and smaller share.”

The same newspaper reported that although the Coalition was divided on the issue, its expenditure review committee was examining reductions in automotive support. It reported that the “razor gang” had put “detailed submissions” to industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella on “cutting funds set aside for the car industry”.

Mirabella re-stated earlier this week that the Coalition was committed to referring subsidies to the Productivity Commission.

The renewed debate over government support for car makers has been prompted by Holden boss Mike Devereux’s disclosure last week that week after the company had received nearly $2.2 billion worth of government assistance over the last 12 years, only days before Monday’s announcement that it would make 500 workers redundant in South Australia and Victoria.

As reported by Manufacturers' Monthly and others, Devereux predicted in November last year that this year’s election, scheduled to be held on September 14, would be a referendum on the future of automotive manufacturing in Australia.