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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 842


Ms GILLARD ( Lalor Prime Minister ) ( 14 :0 5 ): I had the opportunity earlier today to meet with some workers from Alcoa, who of course represented hundreds of others. I did that in association with their local members—with the members for Corio and Corangamite. Interestingly, those workers did not ask me the question that the Leader of the Opposition has posed today, because they understand what is driving change in the business that they work for. They understand with a great degree of sophistication what is driving change in the business that they work for. They understand that the high Australian dollar is making a big difference to their business—there is a big pressure on their shoulders. They understand, too, that we are seeing low prices around the world for aluminium. They understand, as well, that our economy generally is in a very different condition from the nations of Europe. Indeed, they volunteered that to me. Compared with the Leader of the Opposition's fear mongering—

Mr Abbott: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My question was about the government's deliberate policy to reduce output by 61.7 per cent in this industry—a deliberate policy of the government. She should be directly relevant to that question.

The SPEAKER: I could rule that comment out of order because of the imputation and argument inherent in the use of the word 'deliberate' , but I will not. I ask the Prime Minister to focus on the specifics of the question.

Ms GILLARD: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Whether you are referring to it as an imputation or not, the assertion in the Leader of the Opposition's point of order is wholly wrong and could not be further from the truth. We want to see an aluminium industry in this country, and we will continue to work with Alcoa and the aluminium industry to ensure that it does have a future in this country.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister will be heard in silence for the remainder of her answer.

Ms GILLARD: In order to ensure the industry has a future, you have to work through and understand the nature of the difficulties and problems. There is no point trying to make it up.

The SPEAKER: And that includes the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition.

Ms GILLARD: I think the Leader of the Opposition should contemplate this fact: the average impact of the copper price on the aluminium sector—

The SPEAKER: Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will leave the House for one hour under the provisions of standing order 94(a). I have said that the Prime Minister will be heard in silence for the balance of her answer and she will be.

Ms Julie Bishop interjecting

The SPEAKER: No. The deputy leader will leave the chamber in accordance with the standing orders.

The member for Curtin then left the chamber.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask you to reconsider the ruling you have just made in asking the deputy leader to remove herself from the chamber. While you asked this side of the House to remain silent, you also asked the Prime Minister to be directly relevant to the question and she was defying your ruling.

The SPEAKER: I asked the deputy leader to leave for one hour under the provisions of standing order 94(a) and she has. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: The statistic I was seeking to share with the House was that the average impact of the carbon price on the aluminium sector is the equivalent of a one cent increase in the exchange rate with the US. I think that gives a sense of the order of magnitude here. What is pressing on the aluminium industry is having an exchange rate which is well above parity with the US dollar, when of course their business models were factored at a different parity price with the US at a different time in Australia's history when we routinely traded far below the US dollar. That is the truth and the Leader of the Opposition should understand— (Time expired)