Two premiers have called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to dip into the federal budget to prop up jobs after Holden’s decision to stop production.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott is under pressure to fund extra defence, roads and rail projects to shore up jobs in South Australia and Victoria after Holden’s decision to stop car making.
Mr Abbott on Thursday met SA premier Jay Weatherill and his Victorian counterpart Denis Napthine in Canberra to discuss ways to ensure the Holden shutdown does not lead to massive job losses in Australia along the supply chain and beyond.
The meetings followed a failed Labor attempt in parliament to censure the prime minister for “doing nothing” to help Holden and for not personally meeting Holden bosses since the election to talk about the company’s future.
The timing is critical because Treasurer Joe Hockey is poised to bring down a mid-year economic review on Tuesday laying out a “shocking” bottom line and substantial cuts to government spending.
Mr Weatherill proposed to Mr Abbott a number of immediate and long-term projects to generate jobs for his state and the nation.
These included a fourth navy Air Warfare Destroyer which could be built to tide skilled workers over until a submarine project began in Adelaide.
Mr Weatherill, who has been involved in private meetings with Holden about extra public funding, said he wanted Mr Abbott to get “involved in cleaning up the mess”.
“As they begin to see the nature of the arrangements that are necessary to secure the future of the South Australian and Victorian and national economy, they are going to be thinking that supporting Holden was going to be a very cheap deal indeed,” he said.
Dr Napthine expects “substantial assistance” from the federal government to assist affected workers and their families and help the Victorian economy adjust.
“The message from those workers … is we need a substantial transition and assistance package for Victoria,” he said after the meeting.
Dr Napthine also raised the issue of Toyota’s future and will have further talks with the car company next week.
With state elections due in SA in March and Victoria in November 2014, there is mounting pressure to support jobs at the state level.
Some 2900 jobs will go from SA and Victoria by 2017 because of Holden’s decision.
Mr Abbott told parliament it was time to stop the blame game and help the workers adjust to “new and better” jobs.
“We have tried throwing money at the motor industry and it just doesn’t work,” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey should have acted earlier on Holden, arguing if Labor had been re-elected, the company’s operations could still be viable.
“You called their bluff, Joe Hockey, and now you have thousands of jobs around your neck,” he said.
“This will be the defining moment in this government.”
Mr Macfarlane said Holden had put a “set of figures” to the government regarding the cost of a potential new model for production, but rejected suggestions the company had proposed a specific figure for a new government support package.