Hard to keep politics out of car manufacturing, with entry barriers, tariffs, free trade agreements actually resulting in anything but free trade, the case for subsidies and the equally strong case for not subsidising one industry while ignoring others etc. Got to say, though, that it's predictably hard faced of Weatherill to blame everything on a federal government that's been in place for three months.
Back in April this year when Holden announced it was axing 400 jobs in SA, Weatherill claimed Holden had broken an agreement (Holden had previously made 100 workers redundant, so the SA gov had offered $50m dollars to guarantee minimum employment levels). It then transpired that there had been no signed contract, only an 'exchange of correspondence'. Holden's chief said at the time 'we do not have a contract with the South Australian government ... so I find it puzzling that I could be in breach of something that I haven't actually agreed to yet.'
For a premier – and Weatherill is a lawyer by trade – to be willing to hand over $50m of tax payers money without the necessary paperwork being in order is staggering. If such an amount still meant a fifth of the Adelaide workforce faced the axe, throwing more money at it hardly seems the answer.
From 2006 to this year (with Labor in gov at both state and federal level), the number of cars sold by Holden halved and yet the money they received from tax payers increased. The high dollar has certainly been a big factor; the same with Australian wages generally (you can't hold car workers' wages down artificially when others are earning well), but quite apart from these factors, many of Holden's current models look like their competitors' previous models. For what they are, they're overpriced and under specced. (Not meant to be a dig at Holden drivers or workers – both of us adults in our house drive Holdens, although ours aren't current models.)
GM's long term business model doesn't include Australia as a manufacturing base; that much is clear regardless of subsidies. It was announced two months ago that Holden's CEO would be moving on, to a new GM role in Shanghai. As he's been the only senior GM person making the case to stay in Australia, this was a clear sign of winding things down; it recently announced it was pulling the Chevrolet brand out of Europe, and the gap this creates means those plants can absorb the Holden work.
A very challenging time for many people.