Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Carr car ca-ca

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-01-23

Kim Carr, as minister representing the car industry, is s***ting on us all with a "consultation" on the A$1.3 billion spend that is little more than a whirlwind tour of two-and-a-half hour consultations in capital cities in early February, each requiring that you book in advance.

That’s 20% of the overall A$6.2 billion giveaway to the car manufacturers.

The whistlestop "consultation" comes after a near-hidden announcement he made in the silly-season of pre-Christmas (2008-12-19), tucked away inside an ALP news feed and buried inside the ausindustry site.

When billions are being splashed around over a few years, and billions more depend on a good outcome, don’t you think it deserves a better consultation, with wider terms of reference, allowing proposals of better alternatives and assuring good oversight?

Seriously, who would know about this inquiry, even though it involves huge amounts of money, apart from those in the car industry, a few journos staggering under other media releases searching for a news-cycle item, and a few sad cases like me with no influence?

Grovelling through the Green Car Innovation Fund Framework Page, you can also email your thoughts by 17:00 2009-02-19 to "The Manager, Green Car Innovation Fund" via after wading through the actual Framework and the "New Car Plan For A Greener Future".

Let’s get into the gories of the criteria to qualify for the largesse….

  • Research or near-commercial improvement of fuel consumption or greenhouse gas emissions by 10% to 15%
  • Technical merit, and applicability to other areas.
  • You’ve got to be big enough to fund it all yourself because you get a "rebate" of one dollar in four.
  • Patentability.
  • "The contribution of the proposed project to a sustainable and internationally competitive Australian automotive industry, and the benefits to the broader Australian economy", something that I cannot summarize through the managerese and has little explanation apart from indicating the desirability of economics models that have proven so accurate over recent years.

So, if you are a university working on new battery systems, tough, you’ve got to negotiate with big overseas companies first.  If you are a startup with a great new design, tough.

And who is assessing "technical merit" and intellectual property?  Given that the experts in IP evaluation in this country are the same folk who granted an "Australian Innovation Patent" for the wheel a couple of years ago (actually a "Circular Transportation Facilitation Device", and the application had pictures of wheels and carts, so it wasn’t that difficult to pick prior art), you’ve got to wonder how worthwhile those assessments can be.

Actually, they’ll be assessed by an officer from Kim Carr’s own department.  You’ve got to wonder just how much pressure and lobbying there’ll be to rush things through.

And of course, the panel making the actual decisions has the same folk on it who failed to understand changing market conditions and the need for change, and haven’t taken up recent technological advances.  That’s cause for optimism…. not!

If you really want to see a car that is sexy, that they can’t make quick enough to meet demand, and was basically funded by Google and Paypal folk, with the innovative battery use put together by a guy who designed battery use algorithms for handheld electronic book readers, see this.  All it really needs is an ugly, cheaper sister with two doors in the back for the kids and a drop in performance.

Even with A$6.2 billion, I’d expect overseas-owned "Australian" manufacturers won’t come up with anything half as good.

…and I couldn’t find ANYTHING that would force anything that came out of those blegabucks to be actually manufactured in Australia rather than in other factories owned by "our" manufacturers.

Seriously, this is something I’m unqualified to wade through, so if there are any economics types out there who are skeptical about the way this money is being splashed around, I hope they notice this post and send in their thoughts to Kim.

And just what that money could do in less time if invested in more suitable commuter-and-passenger bike regulations and public transport!

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