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Discussions over extra assistance to Holden continue

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Following news that General Motors Holden is seeking another $60 million in government assistance to keep its Australian operations running, it has been claimed that the funding needed to save Holden would be far greater.

According to The Australian, an insider at Holden has claimed an extra $150 million would merely see the car maker breaking even, and it is seeking an additional $265 million in assistance from the federal, SA and Victorian governments on top of the $275 million already pledged.

"Holden is in a vice and it's tightening," The Australian reports its source as saying, and Holden was using the announced departure of Ford from Australia in 2016 as a bargaining chip to extract more public money.

Shadow federal treasurer Joe Hockey said the Coalition was committed to keeping car manufacturing in Australia but expressed
doubt about whether more funding was worthwhile, saying “there has got to come a time when enough is enough”.

The Australian Financial Review cast doubt over the amount of Holden’s claims, with a spokesperson from Holden telling the newspaper that the account was “purely speculative”.

Newly-returned industry minister Kim Carr was also skeptical about the reports. 

"The reports in the paper this morning are of course not the figures that I've seen, they are reflecting some speculation from some quarters unknown," he told The ABC.

Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott recommitted the Coalition to cutting the Automotive Transformation Scheme by $500 million up to 2015 if there was a change of government.

Abbott said that Holden should do more to boost exports and work to make its operations cheaper, as the company and unions move into their fourth day of discussions on the possibility of workers taking pay cuts.

"We would be prepared to look at further generous assistance but we'd want to make sure . . . Holden had credible plans to reduce their cost of production and to boost their volumes and the only way to boost their volumes is to have a serious export strategy,"
Abbott told News Limited.

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