Holden versus Ford – it’s the most Australian of debates and one that has divided revheads for decades.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd unintentionally lobbed himself right into the middle of it on Saturday, when a slip of the tongue saw him address one Holden stalwart as working for arch rival Ford.
In Adelaide to announce Labor’s $500 million support package for the car industry, Mr Rudd attended a BBQ for Holden workers at Salisbury North.
Addressing the small crowd of workers and their families, the prime minister dragged 43-year-old Shawn Matthews on stage.
Mr Matthews’ dad had worked for Holden for 35 years, while the father-of-two himself worked for the car maker for 27 years, Mr Rudd said.
“He tells me that it is a family tradition, he’s got an uncle and an aunt, and two brothers-in- law here working at Ford,” Mr Rudd said, before quickly realising his gaffe.
“I’m sorry at Holden,” he said. “At Holden.”
Composing himself once more, the prime minister said the Matthews had a “great family story”.
“That is a truly Australian story, that is a truly Holden story,” he said.
Mr Matthews welcomed Labor’s 2020 funding commitment, saying “we can all keep our jobs for another 10 years at least, and hopefully keep making cars”.
“I can’t think of any other way but Holden,” said Mr Matthews, a technical officer in the manufacturing engineering division.
“I’ve been there since (age) 16.”
Electrician Steve Rayson said the announcement would calm the nerves of auto workers.
“It’s no good being in a job when you don’t know whether you’re going to be here from day to day,” he said.
“At least people can relax a bit. For a lot of people it’s played on their minds.”
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott rubbished the auto plan as a “blank cheque” to the car industry, and the announcement humiliating and undignified for Mr Rudd.
Mr Rayson said: “I just hope he knows who it affects before he’s speaking his mind”.
“It sounds like he doesn’t know all the facts – he doesn’t understand what the automotive industry is all about,” he said.
“I’d be more than happy to talk to him,” he added, offering an invitation to the Liberal leader.
Did he think it would be accepted?
“Probably not,” Mr Rayson replied with a laugh.