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Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Page: 272

Automotive Industry

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (14:09): My question is to the Prime Minister. How is the government building Australia's future through the car industry?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:10): I had the great privilege this morning of meeting people who work in the car industry, and they are present in the gallery now. I welcome them to this parliament. They came to parliament to talk about the future of their industry and its importance to the Australian economy. There is a lot of nonsense talked about the car industry in the public domain, some of it in the pages of our newspapers and some of it in this parliament. There is a lot of nonsense suggesting that the car industry is somehow part of our past. It needs to be part of our future. The member for Wakefield, who asked me this question, knows that very well from his local experience in his electorate, where car marking is very important.

Australians want to see us continue to make cars. They want to see the iconic brands like Holden and Ford still in this nation. In order for that to happen, we need to recognise that the car industry is at the forefront of innovation. The car industry is a high-productivity, high-skill industry. It needs to compete in the world and with the dollar as strong as it is at the moment that is a very difficult thing to do. It needs government to work in partnership with the industry to make sure not that there is no change—because we cannot guarantee no change and we cannot guarantee every job, either—but that we are a country that still makes cars. I am determined to do that, not only because 46,000 Australians rely on the car industry for their employment but because, when you go through the supply chain, around 200,000 Australians rely on that industry. When you look more broadly, a million Australians work in manufacturing, and what is done in the car industry is important to manufacturing around the nation. Whether it is technology such as robotics going elsewhere or whether it is skill sets going elsewhere, this industry is important to the jobs of a million Australians.

Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition was channelling Dirty Harry. Perhaps he should recognise today that Clint Eastwood, who gave Dirty Harry to the world, is out there supporting the American car industry. What the Leader of the Opposition should be saying—

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The Prime Minister was not asked about the Leader of the Opposition's position. She was asked about the government's position.

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will return to the substance of the question and be directly relevant.

Ms GILLARD: I was asked about the future of the car industry. Let me conclude by saying that we stand for a future for the car industry in this country. The Leader of the Opposition stands for doing the dirty on the car industry and ending car manufacturing jobs.

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (14:13): Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. The Prime Minister was talking about the government's manufacturing policies. Can she outline how they might affect local communities in Salisbury, Elizabeth and Gawler and perhaps what the alternative policy approaches are?

The SPEAKER: The supplementary question is in order if the honourable member is referring to car manufacturing.

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:13): I thank the member for Wakefield for his supplementary question. He is concerned about the future of Holden because of its importance to his local communities. When we met today and talked to the car industry workers who are in the gallery, I met with Michael Etherington from Holden, who spoke about the importance of Holden to the future of suburbs like Salisbury and Elizabeth, which the member for Wakefield represents in this parliament. I want those communities to have a future. I want them to have a future that includes car making and those high-skill, high-wage jobs in their local community. That is why I am determined that the industry has a future in this country. That is why it is so devastating that the opposition is robbing this industry of certainty and therefore robbing these workers of jobs.

I invite my Labor colleagues to look up at the workers in the gallery, confident in the knowledge that we are working to support their jobs. I invite the opposition to turn around and look in the eyes of those workers whose jobs they are setting out to destroy.