South Australia Opposition Leader in the Legislative Council David Ridgway
Weatherill A Foul Fair-Weather Friend
Victor P Taffa
Premier Weatherill has given a major automotive contract to an Asian company, throwing 17 people in his own electorate out of work.
“Labor bangs the drum about hundreds of millions of dollars handed out to the subsidiary of an American auto giant, but the Premier won’t step in to save people’s jobs in his own electorate who work for a proud Australian-owned company.” Liberal frontbencher David Ridgway said today.
Custom Coaches has been building buses at Royal Park in Jay Weatherill’s western Adelaide seat of Cheltenham since 1975.
“After almost 40 years of providing good, quality buses to South Australians and giving work to hundreds of skilled tradesmen as well as providing valuable apprenticeships in welding and coach building the company and its staff have been sold out.” Mr. Ridgway said.
“They’ve been sacrificed by a Premier so out of touch with his electorate that he thinks local jobs don’t matter.”
With 180 employees, Custom Coaches builds up to 200 buses and coaches a year for the South Australian and interstate market. Or, at least, it did.
“When the Labor Government sought expressions of interest to build a new fleet of more than 50 large and medium school buses, Custom Coaches must have been reasonably confident of winning the tender.” Mr. Ridgway said.
“After all, the company makes school buses for the A.C.T. and West Australian Governments. It is clearly a national player. Unfortunately, that doesn’t count for beans in Jay Weatherill’s mind.”
“Labor has decided to buy Malaysian-built buses.”
“Naturally Custom Coaches provides its employees with superannuation, WorkCover, other entitlements and high safety standards on the shop floor.” Mr. Ridgway said.
“Malaysian factories don’t have to do that, so imports can look cheaper on paper than buses made by skilled craftsmen in Adelaide.”
“But some of Custom Coaches’ buses are still on the road 40 years after they left the factory. There’s a good argument that over the life of the bus, the Australian-built product can be very competitive and may even be cheaper.”
“Then there are the Aussie suppliers. For example the seats in Custom Coaches’ school buses are built in Australia, providing local jobs. Those jobs now will also disappear.” Mr. Ridgway said.
“At Custom Coaches, 17 men have had to be sacked, with devastating consequences to their careers and their families.”
“Who is going to pay to retrain them? Who is going to provide the social security while these once-proud men are unemployed?” Mr. Ridgway asked.
“But appeals to Jay Weatherill and others like Education Minister Grace Portolesi have failed. They’ve failed because the Ministers fail to understand that coach-building is as much a part of South Australia’s automotive sector as car-building.”
“Jay Weatherill is after a headline, not a solution. He wants to be seen as the White Knight of GMH, and doesn’t care if he’s the Black Knight of Cheltenham.”
“It’s a ruthless decision by a ruthless Premier.” Mr. Ridgway said.