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We won't hand over the $50m: Weatherill

Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Author: Kevin Naughton, Indaily

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DEAL or no deal?

Holden's $275 million Federal and State Government co-investment to keep jobs at Elizabeth for the next 10 years is under a cloud after the company axed 500 jobs yesterday.

Also under a cloud are the 16,000 associated industry jobs supported by the Holden plant.

The joint deal, announced in March 2012, included $50 million from the State Government - funds which may now not be paid after Premier Jay Weatherill accused GM Holden of breaching the agreement.

"That's why we won't be handing over $50 million," Weatherill said on radio today.

There is also a cloud, however, over whether or not a contract exists and how much of it relates to current job levels.

Holden says there is no contract - and therefore no breach of any conditions.

Weatherill expressed his outrage at the cuts yesterday; saying the decision to axe 400 jobs at Elizabeth and 100 jobs in Victoria was "inconsistent" with his understanding of the 2012 agreement.

Today he went a step further.

"There were minimum employment levels agreed which would drive whether the State Government paid the $50 million or whether the State Government clawed any of it back," Weatherill told Indaily this morning.

"That was an essential term of the agreement.

"It is common ground between the company and the State Government that yesterday's announcement will require us to revisit the agreement.

"When we announced this agreement we made clear to the Parliament that a further detailed implementation agreement would be signed."

Holden managing director Mike Devereux rejected the notion that there was a contract or that he was in breach of any agreement.

"As I sit here today we don't have a contract," he told Five AA this morning.

"I'm mystified to know that I'm in breach of something that I don't have.

"In these agreements we go through a formal contract process and that can take two or three years.

"We are currently six to eight months into that process with the State Government and I still hope to have an agreement later this year."

The divergent views of just what has been agreed could force the parties to reveal what their exchange of letters to date contained.

There are two separate elements to the March 2012 deal.

The first is the current production of the Cruze and Commodore at Elizabeth.

The second is for development of models that will replace those cars; it's that second stage that is the central component in the joint government deal.

On the first subject, yesterday's job losses reflect the poor sales of the Commodore and Cruze.

It's the reason why Holden has previously axed 100 jobs at the plant in February 2012, another 170 jobs in November 2012 and 400 jobs this week.

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