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Premiers ask Abbott to ease Holden fallout


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South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill says any money already allocated to Holden should continue to flow to his state and Victoria as the firm ceases car manufacturing.

Holden’s US owners General Motors will axe 2900 jobs at plants in SA and Victoria as a result of its decision to shift to selling overseas-made cars and distributing parts by 2017.

Weatherill and Victorian Premier Denis Napthine will meet with Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Canberra today to discuss assistance for affected workers and their families.

South Australian Opposition Leader Steven Marshall is also in Canberra today to talk to his federal colleagues about the Holden fallout.

Weatherill will propose to Abbott that infrastructure projects “stalled by government intransigence” go forward to head off a potential downturn in the state’s economy.

“All of the money that would be otherwise going to Holden should be quarantined and given to South Australia and Victoria,” Weatherill added.

Napthine said his state needed “substantially more” than the $50 million being spent to help workers in the wake of an earlier decisions by Ford to close its plants.

“We need substantial assistance from the federal government to assist directly those workers, but also to assist to grow jobs and opportunities across the Victorian economy,” he said.

Some 1300 Holden jobs will go from Victoria and 1600 from South Australia.

There are fears Toyota could follow Holden’s lead.

Abbott spoke to Toyota Australia president and chief executive Max Yasuda on Wednesday night.

“Obviously the government will be talking to Toyota, we want Toyota to continue and they are in a slightly different position to Holden,” he told the Nine Network.

Abbott said he didn’t want to play the blame game over Holden.

“We have great strengths in many areas, including manufacturing, but it’s got to be manufacturing for the kind of profitable markets that we can make the most of,” he said.

Napthine’s government was willing to put money into Toyota and the automotive supply chain.

“I would hope we can look at Toyota as an ongoing operation,” he said.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane denied claims Holden had told him it would exit Australia if it wasn’t given a guarantee of ongoing support by December.

He said the company was cooperating with a Productivity Commission inquiry, due to report in March.

“There were no signals from Holden that they couldn’t accept the timeline that was laid down,” Macfarlane said.

The minister also said money earmarked for Holden would probably be redirected to Toyota.

“That money will go to Toyota and the component industry, providing they accept the plan that is worked out through the consultation process,” Macfarlane said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said extra government support could have kept Holden going until the “middle of next decade”.

“I do not believe a car industry can survive in Australia with a coalition government,” he told ABC Television.

South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon said senior government ministers had forced Holden’s hand.

“The tipping point was those reckless comments made in the parliament,” he told reporters, citing Treasurer Joe Hockey’s dare to Holden that “either you’re here or you’re not”.

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