By Craig Zammit
SOUTH AUSTRALIA: The 500 employees affected by the closure of two Electrolux factories in Adelaide over the next 18 months will receive assistance from a $35 million rescue package launched by the Coalition Goverment and the South Australian Labor State Government yesterday afternoon.
The program, outlined by Australian industry minister, Ian Macfarlane and South Australian deputy premier, Kevin Foley, will include immediate access for eligible workers to intensive one-on-one customised support, job search training and advice, counselling and access to the Job Seeker account.
The package will also provide a focus on growing South Australia’s innovation and technology capabilities while expanding the state’s depth of workplace skills, it will also become the second time the South Australian manufacturing sector has recieved assistance, after the Federal Government provided a $50 million rescue package in 2004.
“We now have a solid track record of success with this sort of program in South Australia, with the previous SAFSA scheme attracting more than $250 million in new investment and creating over 1,300 jobs in South Australia,” said Macfarlane.
“The 19 new projects brought to South Australia under SAFSA have extended the state’s capabilities in the advanced manufacturing, food processing and solar energy sectors, while offering employees the opportunity to develop new skills,” he said.
The new program, of which the Australian Government will contribute $30 million and the South Australian Government $5 million, will look to follow on and broaden the success of the Structural Adjustment Fund for South Australia (SAFSA).
“The South Australian economy remains strong. In August some 1,800 jobs were created in the state at a time when the state’s unemployment rate of 4.8% is at 30-year lows,” said Foley.
“This program will be instrumental in boosting the competitiveness of our manufacturing base,” he said.
The guidelines and make-up of an independent taskforce designed to make recommendations on proposals for investment under the new program will also be announced soon by the Ministers.
“As Ministers interested in the future of industry in this country and state, we will continue to put politics to one side to ensure new project and work opportunities are developed in South Australia under this new program,” said the Ministers.
However not all parties are so happy with the government bail-out plan, there are some, such as Australian Manufacturing Workers Union spokesmen Doug Cameron and John Braithwaite, who claim Prime Minister John Howard is trying to buy votes with the program.
“They send in the ambulances to patch up the victims of job losses when it’s in a marginal seat, but they have no vision [and] no plan for manufacturing in Australia,” said Cameron.
“The fact that [workers have] had to sit on basically death row for 24 hours while the rumours went around, it’s just disgusting,” Braithwaite told abc.net.au.
Nonetheless, Prime Minister John Howard believes the $35 million is an appropriate use of funds and will provide assistance to an entire region.
“We’re saying to the people affected and to the communities affected that we will help other enterprises establish themselves.
“Providing transitional assistance of this kind is a very intelligent allocation of taxpayers’ dollars,” Howard said.