A $155 million fund to help workers transition from the local car industry is inadequate, a union official says.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced the Growth Fund, originally $100 million, will expand to $155 million with contributions from Holden, Toyota and the Victorian and South Australian governments.
“The objective as always is to maximise prosperity, maximise employment, to build on the inherent creativity of businesses … (and) it’s about helping workers to go from good jobs to better jobs,” he said on Wednesday.
The original package was unveiled in December before Toyota announced it would close its Melbourne plant.
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Paul Bastian said the fund is not generous enough for the needs of the 27,500 car industry workers the government estimates will lose their jobs when Ford, Holden and Toyota close their factories.
“It’s well and truly short of the mark. We think $1.5 billion is needed,” he said.
“It’s the government’s responsibility to ensure the workers can be retrained and that the industry can be upgraded.”
Opposition industry spokesman Kim Carr said the fund is a “paltry amount”.
“The Abbott government has clearly failed to grasp the deep and complex consequences of the end of automotive manufacturing in Australia.”
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said the expanded fund would provide extra assistance for workers and businesses.
“This is about assisting the workers affected by these changes, this is about assisting businesses affected by these changes and providing new, even better opportunities for those workers and those businesses,” he said.
South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said he is glad for the extra funding but wants to know how much money would be spent in South Australia and Victoria, the two worst affected states.
“Now I want to understand exactly how that contribution will be spent and where it will be spent,” he said.
Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer Mark Stone said the fund targets industry areas such as advanced manufacturing, food and agriculture, health and biomedical, mining services, tourism and education that it sees as priorities.
“It is vital that there is investment to support businesses with the potential to break into new markets and provide new, sustainable career paths,” he said.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox also welcomed the funding, but questioned if only 27,500 jobs would be lost.
“Based on feedback from our members and supported by ABS statistics, Ai Group estimates that around 45,000 people are employed in motor vehicle and parts manufacturing,” he said.
“We hope the government will remain open to providing further transitionary support should it be required.”