Local auto industry “alive and kicking”: Minister

Victorian Minister of Small Business and Local Government, Adem Somyurek, addresses the AADA Auto-IT Opening Breakfast

The “long and proud” history of the Victorian automotive industry will continue into the future despite the departure over the past few years of vehicle manufacturers, according to the Victorian Minister for Small Business and Local Government, Adem Somyurek.

Speaking at the AADA Auto-IT Opening Breakfast at the 2019 AADA National Dealer Convention & Expo, Mr Somyurek said the Government continued to support automotive companies and workers, as well as small businesses (which most dealerships are).

“If you look past the big headlines about closures, and its decline, you will notice that Victoria’s auto industry is alive and kicking,” he said.

“The Victorian Government’s 2015 Automotive Transition Plan helped transition the industry by implementing programs and initiatives that support the auto supply chain, the workers, the businesses, and the communities, which the auto industry also supported.

“This has been done through grants that will assist companies in the most affected communities, and tailor support to supply-chain businesses, to identify and capture new opportunities in other markets, and providing workers with retraining, careers guidance, and job search skills to secure new employment.”

A large and attentive audience at breakfast

Mr Somyurek said that overall the Victorian Government has supported former auto workers and the supply chain with over one hundred million dollars of targeted assistance for the cessation of car manufacturing in Victoria.

“While some firms did close, the vast majority with the government support were able to diversify their businesses and are still going strong today, employing thousands of hard-working Victorians,” he said.

“Ford has invested in a $13 million upgrade to its Asia-Pacific product development centre in Melbourne, and retained its parts warehouse in Broadmeadows, its research and development centre in Geelong, and its proving ground in Lara.

“GMH – Holden – has retained its design quarter in Fishermans Bend, its proving ground in Lang Lang, and its parts and distribution centre in my electorate of Dandenong. Toyota has retained its headquarters in Melbourne, and its Altona site for new and relocated functions, including sales and marketing, engineering, design, and training.”

Mr Somyurek said the retention of research and design facilities despite the absence of vehicle manufacturing plants defied the old adage that “where you do your manufacturing is where you do your research and development”.

“To stand here four or five years later, and for those companies to still be in Victoria, still doing research and development, still doing engineering and design work, is a great (result),” he said.

“Earlier this year, Nissan announced that Mulgrave will be the new home for its national headquarters, and electric vehicle technical training centre, in addition to its electric vehicle parts manufacturing, again in my electorate of Dandenong.”

The Minister also underlined the Victorian Government’s commitment to helping small businesses, in their dealings with big business, and by easing the tax burden on one of the economy’s largest contributors.

“As of May this year, more than 63,000 Victorians are employed in the retail, repair and maintenance of motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts. Many of them, 98 percent of them, are in small business,” Mr Somyurek said.

“Small businesses are significant contributors to the strong, robust, Victorian economy. They account for just below 50 percent of all private sector employment.

“That is why the Victorian Government has a comprehensive suite of policies and initiatives to ensure that small businesses around Victoria are supported, like the three regulation reviews that we’ve conducted into the retail, the visitor economy, and the construction sectors, which have brought about practical forms of safe businesses, time, and training.”

The commitment to increase the tax-free threshold from $650,000 to $700,000 by the 2022/23 financial year, and reduction of payroll tax, would reap further tax relief.

Mr Somyurek said the Victorian Government wanted to create a fairer relationship between small businesses and larger businesses.

However, in less gratifying news for franchised automotive Dealers, he reiterated the Victorian Government’s support for a mandatory national scheme for sharing vehicle service and repair information.

“We support this scheme because we believe that it will promote a more competitive market for our independent repair and service centres,” he said. “It will also give customers more choice, more options.”

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