Toyota’s decision to follow Holden and Ford out of car-making will change the face of Australian industry forever, the federal government says.
Toyota will pull out of making cars by the end of 2017, due to the high Australian dollar and intense global competition.
The company, which has operated in Australia for 50 years, has 3900 workers at its Port Melbourne plant and 150 at its Notting Hill design facility in Victoria.
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane was the first government member to be informed of the decision just before 4pm on Monday after the car boss Akio Toyoda tried to contact Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who at the time was launching a union corruption inquiry.
Mr Abbott said later he had been told by Toyota executives the company was satisfied with the encouragement from successive Australian governments.
“I would just like to reassure the people of Australia that that is the constant focus of the Commonwealth government – to ensure that we have a strong economy and that the number of new jobs outweighs the number of closing jobs,” Mr Abbott said.
“Nothing that I say can limit the impact of this devastation and disappointment today (but) there will be better days in the future.”
Mr Macfarlane was disappointed by the decision, but believed jobs would be found for the workers in new industries.
“This will change the face of industry forever,” Mr Macfarlane said.
The minister said he was not aware of any government money having been on the table for Toyota before last year’s election.
But a Labor spokeswoman said $200 million in short-term funding had been earmarked for the car industry, with $150 million a year available in the long-term.
A Productivity Commission inquiry into the auto sector will still report by May, but will now have its terms of reference expanded to include the demise of Toyota.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was an economic catastrophe with a terrible human cost.
“The car industry has died under the Abbott government,” he said.
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the car industry was the “bedrock” of the manufacturing sector in Australia and the decision would impact on many thousands of jobs in the auto sector.