Topics: Australian automotive industry
But first, we are going to talk to Federal Industry Minister Greg Hunt.
He’s in Chicago at the moment. He’s just come from Detroit where he’s had talks with Ford and General Motors about keeping a lot of expertise in the current industry still here in Australia. I spoke to him earlier.
Very heartening news from this trip, having been with the most senior people at Ford and at Holden or GM, as it’s known globally, is that they are committed to the long term for design, for research and development, and for engineering in Australia.
Very simply, they think that our designers and engineers are the best in the world, and the proof of that is Australians are right at the top of both Ford and Holden’s global design teams.
Well, wasn’t an Australian the head of the Ford Motor Company internationally? So I still can’t understand why they’re not interested in making cars here.
If we’re so good that we can run the company globally, and we’re so good we can design the cars, why aren’t we good enough to make them?
Well, that may be a decision based on the competitiveness of our actual manufacturing, and that’s a decision that was made three and four years ago in each of their cases.
But what they do say is there are at least 1400 jobs that are expected to be ongoing, high-quality in the design and the engineering space.
And more than that, they want young Australian graduates. They want young Australians to be studying and believing that they have a legitimate role in a global industry, and indeed, they’re highly valued and highly sought after.
So it’s a big opportunity, and the car industry is anything but dead in terms of the design, the research and development, and the engineering.
And they said to me very clearly, we think Australian graduates, Australian designers are some of the absolute best in the world, and now we’re part of the global design process.
We see with Ford, for example, one of three global design centres is in Australia, and they are tying us in to the development of cars for India, for the United States, for markets in Asia.
So all around the world, Australians are helping lead the design.
And where will these jobs be, these 1400 jobs that you say have been guaranteed by both Ford and General Motors? Which state will they be in?
Well, the way I would say it is that they are committed long-term. That’s the figure. One of the firms which said they would make an announcement later was looking in fact to add people in their design team over the coming 18 months.
So they’ll make their decisions, but I hope as many as possible will be in South Australia and Victoria.
The principal design centre historically has been in Victoria, but my view is if you can have a global design centre in Australia that works with the world, they can be everywhere.
So they can be in South Australia, they can be in Victoria, and what we see is that South Australia’s right at the forefront of component manufacturing.
So SMR Automotive, they make up arguably the world’s leading plastic rear vision mirror. I know plastic sounds sort of soft and tinny. This is anything but.
This is a multi-layer, thin coating mirror that is as good as glass, much more resilient, and over $160 million has been manufactured and sold from South Australia, so the other thing they’re looking at is our Australian component manufacturers.
And I was with Ford and arguing the case for Australian component manufacturers to be part of their global supply chain, and that’s also the future for our advanced manufacturing.
I’m talking to Federal Industry Minister Greg Hunt on the line from Chicago, and I appreciate your time, minister.
And I’d just like to ask you this question, there was a recent survey done on manufacturing competitiveness, and it showed that Australia was more competitive than France, Spain, and Italy.
Now, those three countries actually produce cars. Is it ever possible that we will have an automotive manufacturing industry again in Australia in some form?
Look, anything is possible in that space. I don’t see that the big car manufacturers are about to come back here.
So the question then is are we creating components? Are we creating semi-fabricated parts? We have the wheels on the new Ford supercar, the GT supercar are made by a Geelong firm.
They’re being sold in some of- in Ford’s most expensive car, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars being bought by the glitterati of the world.
And there you’ve got a Geelong firm. You have SMR Automotive, that’s part of it.
Then you may have small run modellers who can develop runs which are sold as specialty cars in Australia.
We are very good at manufacturing. The car industry was caught by the fact that in that sector, we weren’t manufacturing in a way where it was world-class competitive, and the truth is the only way our firms are going to prosper globally is if they are world-class competitive.
But we’ve seen that turn around at Nyrstar, for example, in Port Pirie.
We’ve seen that turnaround with Dulux, which makes paints, which has done extraordinarily well right around Australia and now around the world.
We’ve seen that turnaround with BlueScope, which is making steel, and I think we can also see that same sort of turnaround with Whyalla, which is another part of my trip.
Thank you very much for your time.