Labor’s plan to create the new position has come just weeks after it announced a policy to provide $58.6 million to help automotive suppliers develop new products and markets as the industry scales back following the closure of the Ford, GM Holden and Toyota manufacturing plants over the next 16 months.
The National Automotive Supplier Advocate (NASA) will have an initial budget of $3.6 million and will work directly with companies to help them break into new domestic and global supply chains.
“The automotive supply chain is too important to be treated with the chaos and contempt of the Abbott-Turnbull government,” said the shadow minister for higher education, research, innovation and industry Senator Kim Carr.
“Only Labor understands that we need to maintain our advanced manufacturing capabilities and attract new investment.
“Maintaining capabilities and growing Australia’s advanced manufacturing base is the best strategy we have to mitigate job losses and reduced economic activity as a result of closures in motor vehicle production,” he said.
Senator Carr said that for every job in car assembly there are an estimated 6.5 jobs in the associated supply industries.
“Modelling suggests that 200,000 people will lose their jobs as a result of the closures in motor vehicle production between now and 2017.
“The shut-downs will rip $29 billion from the economy (every year) – about two per cent of gross domestic product.”
He said that, with the right policies, Australia still had a chance to compete in new areas of automotive development around the world, including autonomous vehicles and telematics, new battery technologies, electric vehicle technologies and alternative fuels.
“To do that, we need to ensure existing automotive suppliers have the best opportunities to access new markets and to diversify and expand their product range.”
The work to be done by the NASA is similar to the role that was formerly fulfilled by Australia’s Automotive Envoys, former Toyota Australia executive chairman John Conomos and former Victorian premier Steve Bracks.
They were appointed in 2009 to help parts makers secure contracts in international supply chains before the roles were abolished by the Abbott Government in 2013.
By Ian Porter