Car manufacturing over in Australia as Holden shuts SA plant

Holden enthusiasts gathered outside the Holden plant in Adelaide as it produces its last car in Australia.

Holden enthusiasts gathered outside the Holden plant in Adelaide as it produces its last car in Australia. Photo: AAP

Holden ceasing production at its assembly plant in Adelaide has signalled the end of an era for Australia’s car manufacturing industry.

When the last Commodore officially rolls off the line on Friday, it will bring a close to more than 50 years of car building at Elizabeth and Holden’s 70 years of vehicle manufacturing in Australia.

After the closure of Ford’s production facilities last year and a similar move by Toyota earlier this month, the company will transition to selling only imported models from 2018.

It made the decision to close in 2013 when it was being battered by a high Australian dollar and the coalition government ruled out further financial support to retain local production.

About 950 workers have stayed to the last day to mark the end of an era for Australia’s manufacturing sector.

Elizabeth’s longest-serving female employee with 40 years service, Lesley Desmond, says it will be a sad time when the plant finally falls quiet.

“This has been a big part of my life. I’m really going to miss it,” she said.

“It’s going to be a sad day when it closes but we all move on and things change and it is what it is.

“I really feel for some of the people. I only wish everyone knew how well these people work, the skills that they’ve got and their commitment to Holden.”

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union national secretary Dave Smith said the closure of Holden and the demise of the car manufacturing industry did not have to happen.


The closure of Holden’s SA plant has marked the end of an era. Photo: AAP

“These job losses are a direct result of the decision by the federal government to abandon these workers,” Mr Smith said.

“We’re seeing the terrible human consequences of poor government decisions.”

The AMWU estimates 2500 jobs could be lost across Holden and its supplier network when the plant closes but exact numbers are hard to gauge.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the generations of Australians who had worked at Holden and in the wider auto industry were to be congratulated.

“They are world-class tradespeople building a world-class product,” he said.

But Mr Shorten said the car manufacturing industry did not need to close.

“It closed because of the lazy, negligent, disinterest of the right-wing economic rationalists of the Turnbull and Abbott governments,” he said.

“They goaded the industry into going. As a result, Australia is poorer.”

Holden communications director Sean Poppitt said the company remained incredibly proud of its workforce and everyone who finished up on Friday would leave with their heads held high.

“We are focused on celebrating with Australia, not commiserating,” he said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is sad Holden is closing its last remaining car plant, but says strong jobs growth in other sectors of the economy is good news for workers.

“You can’t get away from the emotional response to the closure,” Mr Turnbull told Neil Mitchell on 3AW radio.

“The good news is that we have strong jobs growth.”

Job transition program

Holden says that since it announced the shutdown plans in December 2013, 85 per cent of the 738 people who have left the plant have successfully transitioned to new work, study or retirement.

Its says 75 per cent have secured new jobs and only eight per cent are still actively looking for work.

But its figures don’t include the 955 workers who will finish up on Friday, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union estimates job losses could still be in the order of 2500 across the company and its supplier network, while some industry analysts put the figure closer to 5000.

Flinders University labour market analyst John Spoehr said more needed to be done in SA to grow jobs, especially jobs for those leaving the car maker.

He said factoring in the impact of the Holden closure on indirect workers, such as those involved with transport companies and retail outlets, the job losses could rise as high as 11,000.

“While efforts to try and reduce the impact of the closure on auto workers are making a difference, the fact remains that thousands of well-paid jobs are being lost, intensifying competition for job vacancies in the state.”

– with AAP

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