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Feb 11, 2014

Crikey says: where's the industry policy now?

Our car industry is dead -- so what's the policy to replace the jobs? Plus we ask the economists what it means for the economy. As federal Parliament returns, which pollies are sitting the most? Guy Rundle breaks down the Amanda Knox case. Helen Razer on the Schapelle saga. And media priorities on a big day of news.

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On the thousands of Toyota workers who will lose their jobs in 2017, the thousands more from Ford and Holden who face a similar fate, and the tens of thousands of workers up and down the automotive supply chain who have had their livelihood implode under them, Tony Abbott says he’ll help them move from “good jobs to better jobs”.

So where are they? Here’s the Prime Minister on AM talking to Chris Uhlmann:

“If you ask me, Chris, can I say what individual Toyota workers will be doing in four years’ time, I can’t give you that answer, but Chris, none of us know the answers to those questions. What we’ve got to do is remember that we are creative people in a capable country who have always faced the future with confidence and have always made the most of it.”

Creative and capable we may be, but there needs to be a plan. One that goes beyond shovelling money into the coffers of the Victorian and South Australian governments in the name of “training” and “transition”.

The challenge for all Australian governments is enormous: in a post-mining boom, post-heavy manufacturing era, where will the jobs — and the nation’s future economic prosperity — come from? What are the industries governments should be supporting? The writing has been on the wall for the car industry for years — it’s a failure of the former Labor government, as much as anyone, for not responding sooner.

Already, the Abbott government has nobbled two of the best future bets: the digital economy (by scaling back the National Broadband Network) and clean-tech (by preparing to kill the carbon price, abandoning the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and potentially putting the Renewable Energy Target on the chopping block). So which industries is it going to be?

To not do the hard work on industry policy now, as Paddy Manning argues in Crikey today, would be to commit “economic vandalism”.

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