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Buy Aussie, minister tells states

Local dilemma: Australian-built cars are falling out of favour with state governments, federal minister Kim Carr says.

State governments hurting local motor industry by switching to imports, Carr says

10 Sep 2010

STATE governments should buy Australian-made cars for the good of the economy, federal innovation, industry, science and research minister Senator Kim Carr said today.

Speaking at the announcement of Toyota’s new $300 million engine plant at Altona, Senator Carr said state governments had bought about 70,000 fewer Australian-built vehicles in recent years.

Responding to a journalist's suggestion that Toyota Hybrid Camry sales had benefited disproportionately from federal and state governments fleet purchases, Senator Carr said: “You’d expect us to buy imported vehicles, would you?“Well, I don’t agree with you. I think Australian governments should be buying Australian-made vehicles.

“My concern is that state governments around Australia have been buying 70,000 less Australian made vehicles in recent years.

“The total number of vehicle sales to state governments has declined.”

Senator Carr said that fleet sales, to both public and private buyers, were the sales that underpinned the health of the local car industry.

“I would rather people buy Australian made cars, whether they are bought by a big company or a family.”

 center imageLeft: Industry minister Kim Carr with Victorian premier John Brumby at the Toyota engine plant announcement.

Last year, VFACTS attributed 60,096 vehicle sales to governments across Australia, a decline of 12.8 per cent in a market down 7.4 per cent. Although no public breakdown of imports versus locally made vehicles is made, only about 21,000 or a little more than one third of those are thought to be local.

Senator Carr dismissed a suggestion that the Hybrid Camry had missed its sales targets since it was released in February.

“In five months, they have sold 4000, contrary to claims on a certain media outlet,” he said.

Deliveries in the last three months totalled 2000 and orders for 2500 were received, he said.

“This is a new technology. You have got to expect it to take time.

But it is absolutely on target to meet the company’s intention to sell 10,000.”

Senator Carr also defended projects backed by the $900 million Green Car Innovation Fund, which have supported new internal combustion engines and a petrol-powered small car to be built by Holden.

The projects offer only incremental advances on existing engines and vehicles.

“We have to be realistic about what can be achieved in a market economy. We are not in the business of directing the companies to produce certain products.

“This is a co-investment program. There has got to be proper attention paid to what is commercially viable.

“I believe there is enormous opportunity to enhance our environmental performance through the ICE (internal combustion engine). That us where the biggest gains are going to come.

“We are in the process of significantly improving our fuel economy and tailpipe (emissions) as a result of adaption of existing technologies.

“The Hybrid Camry is an existing technology. But it works. We didn’t have it here. The company was making these cars in Thailand.

“We have brought the production to Oz and brought with it all the skills and the capabilities hat you need to sustain production in Australia.”

Asked if he wanted to continue as minister in the newly formed Gillard government, Senator Carr declared that working in his current portfolio was “a labour of love”.

Senator Carr said he had been delighted with the work of the Innovation Department during his time as minister.

“I find it a great pleasure and it’s a labour of love for me,” he said.

“I have to wait upon the decisions of the PM (Prime Minister) as to the portfolio allocations she makes.”

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