Let It Bleed might be the Stones’ best album by a mile, but it’s a cruel and useless theme for an industry policy.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia has been haemorrhaging for years. As we said yesterday, prolonging Mitsubishi’s agony has been unfair to its workers. It’s also been bleeding taxpayers. Look at the Oz today :

Mitsubishi had received $9 million in the first six months of this year, under the Automotive Competitiveness Investment Scheme, the spokeswoman said. Under ACIS, Australia’s four car producers and car component suppliers can qualify for up to $4.2 billion in subsidies until 2015.

The subsidies are worth an average $410 a car for each of the 388,000 cars produced locally each year, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries says. Mitsubishi declined to say how much it got in subsidies during the 380’s development to offset its $600 million investment …

South Australian Premier Mike Rann and his Treasurer Kevin Foley are normally good on business welfare. They know it rips off average Joes – and Josephines. Still, they’re in a bind at the moment. The Adelaide Advertiser reports today that, “Hundreds of Electrolux workers are expected to lose their jobs today when the company announces a scaling down of its Adelaide operations”.

Over the last 60 years, ham-fisted interventionist SA state governments have backed a series of losers. Sixty years of ill-considered taxpayer-funded business dole has helped create – and exacerbate – the current mess. But the last Liberal government was one of the worst offenders. Rann and Foley can at least point to some of its more egregious follies to justify firm action. Let it go. As the PM said yesterday, “In the end it is a company decision”. Blame head office and the banks.

The Australian had some interesting comments yesterday:

Premier Mike Rann last night confirmed that the Department of Trade and Economic Development had been looking for more work for the Tonsley Park plant “in addition to the manufacture of the 380”.

Automotive analyst Graeme Maxton said Mitsubishi should have taken the decision to close or sell its Adelaide factory at least six months ago. “It doesn’t make economic sense to keep Mitsubishi open in South Australia making fewer than 16,000 cars a year,” he said.

John Wormald, the principal of international automotive industry consultant Autopolis, said Mitsubishi Australia had staked its future on the 380 sedan and lost. “In retrospect, it looks like it was a mistake for Mitsubishi to develop the 380 sedan as an Australia-only vehicle,” he said

Cauterisation is called for. It can hurt. It can damage the rest of the body. But it’s better than bleeding to death.

Peter Fray

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