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SENATE QUESTION ON THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY 

08 Feb 2012
 

Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:08): My question is to the Minister for Manufacturing, Senator Carr. Following his meeting with the car workers who have come to petition the parliament today, can the minister inform the Senate what benefit the automotive industry brings to Victoria?

Senator CARR (Victoria-Minister for Manufacturing and Minister for Defence Materiel) (14:08): I thank Senator Marshall for the question and acknowledge that these workers are part of the many thousands of Australians who have already signed on to the fight against Mr Abbott's $500 million funding cut for the automotive industry. They have the support of 79 per cent of Australians-that is according to the latest Nielsen poll-and fewer than one in five people actually support the position that the Liberal party is pursuing on this issue. The reason for that is pretty straightforward: Australians care about the future for working people and they care about the future for the automotive industry-and that includes, of course, Victorians. The automotive industry in Victoria is central to the prosperity-

Honourable senators interjecting -

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, you might resume your seat because there is noise on both sides-

Honourable senators interjecting -

The PRESIDENT: I remind honourable senators that the time to debate this issue-

Senator Back interjecting -

Senator Cameron interjecting -

The PRESIDENT: Senator Back and Senator Cameron, debate it after question time. Senator Carr, continue.

Senator CARR: Senator Marshall, there are about 24,000 workers who are employed in firms that will be supported by this government's New Car Plan. There are workers in Ford at Geelong, workers at Toyota at Altona and workers at Holden in Port Melbourne. But there are also 117 component manufacturers in Victoria who will enjoy the support of that plan. There are of course families who depend upon the success of these policies. These families will be the first to suffer under Mr Abbott's approach.

And it is not just people directly employed in the automotive industry. There are people right through the research community and people working in iron, steel, gas and plastics who are dependent on the automotive industry. These are people who depend on-

Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:11): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for that answer and I ask: has the industry raised with the minister the importance of a return to a bipartisan position on the car industry?

Senator CARR (Victoria-Minister for Manufacturing and Minister for Defence Materiel) (14:11): Senator Marshall's question goes to the very heart of this matter. Workers are appealing to this parliament to come together and support them in what is one of the greatest times of difficulty that they have seen in recent years, as a direct result of what has happened to the Australian dollar.

They have heard what Mr Abbott has said. They have seen Mr Abbott front up to factories across this land and appeal to them for support for his campaign. The workers are saying to him, 'Did you mean that, or was that yet another fraud?' It is another fraud, because the policy the Liberal Party is pursuing would see the destruction of the automotive industry in this country. Not only would we see $500 million taken out of the industry but we would also see a further $1 billion go as a result of the policies of the Liberal Party. Mr Loughnane has been going around automotive industries in this country telling people that the policy is going to change. The only one he did not tell was Mr Hockey. (Time expired)

Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:12): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I thank the minister for that answer and I ask: how does the minister respond to claims that car manufacturing has no place in advanced economies?

Senator CARR (Victoria-Minister for Manufacturing and Minister for Defence Materiel) (14:12): Of course such a claim is nonsense, and it is the sort of ignorant statement that you hear from the so-called insiders in Canberra who think that manufacturing should be someone else's problem. We see in the United States that, that is not the view that is being pursued. President Obama's auto package is in fact costing about $264 per person-compared to Australia's support, which is less than the price of a footy ticket. We see a similar approach has been taken in Germany by their government. In England, we see a conservative government is taking the position that the automotive industry is central to the future of Britain. Yet in this country the Liberal Party have not heard that message. They have not understood the fundamentals-that is, that the future of manufacturing in this country depends on our ability to ensure that we make technologically advanced componentry and technologically advanced products, which of course the automotive industry produces. We know that the future prosperity of this country depends on the ability of manufacturers to - (time expired)

 

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