Background to the inquiry
On 25 November 2014, the Senate referred an inquiry into the future of
Australia's automotive industry to the Senate Economics References Committee
for inquiry and report by the first sitting day in November 2015.
On 9 November 2015, the reporting date for the inquiry was extended to 1
The terms of reference for the inquiry are:
The future of Australia's automotive industry, with
particular reference to:
- maintaining the capacity for Australia to engage in
advanced manufacturing, by ensuring skills and industrial capabilities that
have been sustained by the automotive industry are not lost;
- reducing Australia's dependency on commodity exports
by diversifying the country's economic base, noting the importance of advanced
manufacturing, including the automotive industry, in this diversification;
- the role of all sectors of the automotive industry,
including, but not limited to, motor vehicle production, component making,
after-market manufacturing, engineering, servicing, retail motor trades, other
forms of sales support, and the training of apprentices, in supporting an
advanced broad-based economy;
- the special difficulties faced by component makers
in the transition to global supply chains and to other forms of manufacturing,
especially as a result of the closure announcements made by the motor vehicle
- new technologies influencing the automotive industry,
both in Australia and internationally, especially new and developing forms of
propulsion, such as hydrogen, electric engines and hybrid engines;
- new business models for the industry, including
employee share models and attracting international venture capital and private
- the possible effects of early closure of motor
vehicle producers, including risks and consequences for the industry, skills,
capabilities and the broader economy, including social consequences, and what
policy actions could mitigate or exacerbate these risks and consequences;
- the need to synthesise and consolidate the findings,
recommendations and knowledge of other reviews and inquiries pertinent to the
automotive industry, in order to identify key policy inconsistencies,
regulatory burdens and factors for growth and investment;
- the importance of long-term, stable employment for
workers in the automotive industry, and the need for greater access to
transitional training and career opportunities; and
- any other related matters.
Given the broad scope of the inquiry and the variety of aspects to
consider, the committee resolved to release an interim report on what it
considered to be the most vulnerable part of the industry at this time—automotive
component manufacturing and vehicle production.
Conduct of inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry on its website and in the Australian.
The committee also wrote directly to component suppliers, vehicle
manufacturers, government agencies, industry groups and associations, academics
and other interested parties drawing attention to the inquiry and inviting them
to make submissions.
Submissions and public hearings
The committee received 38 submissions, all of which are publicly
available. The submissions and answers to questions on notice are listed at
Appendix 1. The committee has held five public hearings:
10 March 2015 in Melbourne;
13 March 2015 in Adelaide;
15 April 2015 in Canberra;
1 October 2015 in Adelaide; and
8 October 2015 in Melbourne.
A list of witnesses is provided at Appendix 2. References to the Committee
Hansard are to the Proof Hansard and page numbers may vary between the Proof
and Official Hansard transcripts.
The committee thanks all the individuals and organisations who assisted
with the inquiry, especially those who made written submissions and appeared at
Background to inquiry
Australia's automotive industry is currently undergoing a major structural
realignment. This realignment is due to the fact that the last locally produced
motor vehicle is set to roll off the production line by the end of 2017. After
this time, without new manufacturing investment, the majority of the Australian
automotive industry's activities will relate to vehicle use—that is,
predominantly sales, servicing and repairs.
The Australian Government has long supported local motor vehicle
production through a variety of co-investment and assistance programs.
Currently, the main government support program to assist domestic motor vehicle
production is the Automotive Transformation Scheme (ATS). The ATS provides government
co-investment to companies involved in local vehicle manufacturing (motor
vehicle producers, automotive component producers, automotive machine tool and
automotive tooling producers and automotive services providers).
The ATS as it was originally designed is intended to support investment
and innovation in the Australian automotive industry and assist it to become
economically sustainable. It commenced on 1 January 2011 and is legislated to
operate through to 31 December 2021.
Following the decision of local vehicle producers to cease manufacturing
in Australia by the end of 2017, the Australian Government publicly stated its
intention to reduce funding available under the ATS. A number of measures were
announced to amend the ATS:
The 2013–14 MYEFO included a measure to reduce capped funding
available under the ATS by $500 million over the 2015–2017 calendar years.
The 2014–15 Budget included a measure to terminate the scheme on
1 January 2018, thereby saving a further $400 million.
Legislative amendments embodying these measures were introduced into the
House of Representatives on 24 September 2014 and the provisions of the bill
were referred to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee on the following
The committee reported back to the Senate on 24 November 2014 and
recommended that the government monitor the allocation of funding and
investment in automotive research and development towards fostering resilience
and diversification among business and industry.
A dissenting report by Senators Carr, Madigan, Muir and Xenophon
expressed the view that:
...by seeking to amend the Act in this way the Government is:
displaying a reckless disregard for the future of the tens of thousands of
Australian men and women who are employed directly in automotive manufacturing;
jeopardising Australia's advanced manufacturing capabilities; and courting
serious long-term economic damage.
They proposed an alternative recommendation that the Senate Economics
References Committee undertake an inquiry to develop a policy framework for the
future of Australia's automotive industry covering all sectors. This inquiry
fulfils that recommendation.
Scope of this inquiry
Australia's automotive industry is diverse and encompasses a range of disparate
activities which can be characterised broadly into upstream and downstream
sectors. Upstream activities relate to the development and construction of
motor vehicles and include activities involved in the design, testing,
engineering, manufacturing and assembling of motor vehicles and their
associated components. Downstream activities relate to distribution and use of
motor vehicles and include sales and finance, servicing and repair, provision
of fuels, recycling and disposal, and aftermarket activities.
The scope of this inquiry was not just limited to passenger motor
vehicles but also included motorbikes, sports utility vehicles (SUVs), buses,
trucks, specialist vehicles (such quad bikes and racing vehicles), caravans and
Interactions between the automotive industry and other industries are
also examined, including, for example, opportunities for component
manufacturers to diversify into other advanced manufacturing industries that may
be outside the automotive industry.
Interim report on the future of the
Automotive Transformation Scheme
The interim report focused on the immediate imperative to assist the automotive
manufacturing sector adapt through reforming the Automotive Transformation Scheme
to an environment where there may be no local vehicle production.
The three remaining local vehicle manufacturers all have plans in place
to manage the wind-down and eventual cessation of production, including
strategies to assist workers find alternative employment.
By contrast, many automotive component manufacturers have faced ongoing
difficulties as production volumes have decreased and associated demand for
their products has fallen. At current levels of production, many component
makers are struggling to remain viable and have significantly reduced output
The cessation of local vehicle manufacturing will have a profound effect
on economic activity and employment in Victoria and South Australia in
particular. If such consequences are to be avoided or, at the very least
minimised, then this issue needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Consistent with the original intention of providing industry support,
the government needs to assist affected businesses through to the end of
vehicle production and beyond, where required. In its current form, however, it
would appear that the ATS is not an adequate support mechanism to achieve this.
In April 2015, the Australian Government announced that it would not seek
to reduce funding under the ATS. While the committee welcomed this decision, it
recognises that current production levels and investment by eligible
participants of the ATS are unlikely to exhaust the available funding.
As a result, the interim report considered options to support component
manufacturers and assist affected businesses to explore new business activities
and/or markets while the opportunity still exists to harness the skills and
knowledge of employees and existing industrial capabilities. Unless alternative
advanced manufacturing activities are in place before vehicle production
ceases, these capabilities and the skills and knowledge embodied in these
workers may be lost from the Australian economy forever.
The recommendations from the interim report are numbered 1 to 5.
Final report on the broader
While the interim report was narrowly focused, this final report
explores what is required for the industry as a whole to reach its potential.
By late this decade, the Australian automotive landscape will be
fundamentally different. The vast majority of the automotive industry activity is
likely to be associated with downstream activities. According to the Motor
Trades Association of Australia:
...ninety five per cent of the automotive industry will be the
sectors who sell, service, repair, recycle and support motor vehicles (passenger/commercial),
heavy vehicle transport, farm and industrial machinery and others.
Whereas in the past the different sectors of the automotive industry
have been considered as separate, developing an overarching vision for the industry
is essential to align common interests and prioritise areas where action is
most needed. Conceptualising the industry as consisting of more than just cars
can also open opportunities for a more managed transition.
In addition to setting out a broad policy framework, there are a number
of specific areas of the automotive industry that the committee considers
important to explore in their own right. The downstream automotive sectors face
challenges arising from changing business models, technological developments
and the need to attract and retain skilled workers. Automotive manufacturing
needs assistance to retain as much activity in Australia as possible, and there
are opportunities to expand automotive manufacturing in the truck industry if
the policy settings are conducive. In addition, the motorsport and motoring
enthusiast sector are significant contributors to the automotive industry and
should be encouraged to expand their activities.
The recommendations from this report are numbered 6 to 20.
Structure of this report
This report comprises 5 chapters.
Chapter 1—provides background to the inquiry;
Chapter 2—outlines future trend affecting the automotive
Chapter 3—examines issues relating to the sales, service and
Chapter 4—explores automotive manufacturing and options to
support this industry; and,
Chapter 5—considers the role of motorsport and motoring
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