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Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Page: 10819

Carbon Pricing


Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (15:21): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to Express Coach Builders, a bus-building business in my electorate that retrenched 25 skilled workers last week due to high taxes, rising costs and intense international competition. When will the Prime Minister start to listen to people like general manager Paul Hoffman when he says: 'When the carbon tax is introduced there will be yet another layer of added cost to us as an Australian manufacturer, yet our overseas opposition can produce a vehicle in their country, ship it to Australia carbon tax free. This is a joke'?


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (15:22): I thank the member for his question. In part of the question he does raise a very serious issue. I understand that there are many manufacturing businesses in our nation today that are bearing the burden of a high Australian dollar. Indeed, so focused am I on that question that this morning I attended a manufacturing roundtable to talk about the pressures on manufacturing that are coming from the economic circumstances that we are in now, as we are in days of economic transformation. We know that in our economy that has a tremendous upside, which is the incredible growth we are seeing in the resources sector, with all of the opportunities that come with that—for jobs, for inward investment—this is a remarkable age for us in resources.

But one of the consequences of that is that the Australian dollar is high, and it is predicted to remain high for a very long period of time. So the bus builder that the member is referring to in his electorate is someone who is bearing the pressure of that high Australian dollar. This is what we refer to in my parlance as the 'patchwork economy', and every step of the way we want to be engaged with manufacturing to make sure that it has a strong future. That is why we have done things like skills reform. That is what the minerals resource rent tax is all about.

Mr Hartsuyker: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order: relevance. The very important question is about a carbon tax impacting on the cost of this business—

The SPEAKER: The member for Cowper will resume his seat. As the Prime Minister indicated, she was directly responding to aspects of the question. She understands the requirement to be directly relevant to the question.

Ms GILLARD: I was asked a question about redundancies today, in a manufacturing business where the person in the business discussed, among other factors, the high Australian dollar, so I am directly responding to the part of the question that raises that issue. What I am saying is that this is an issue for the business that the member raises. It is an issue for Australian manufacturing. Every step of the way we have been strongly engaged with Australian manufacturing. The minerals resource rent tax is about taking more tax from the strongest section of the economy, giving a tax cut to other businesses. The NBN has the ability to drive productivity in our manufacturing sector. We are working with supplier advocates so manufacturing can get its fair share of the growth from the resources boom by supplying the things that mining companies want. We are working through Australian industry participation plans. We have dealt with new arrangements in relation to antidumping. So every step of the way we have been strongly engaged with Australian manufacturing and we will continue to stay strongly engaged with Australian manufacturing. We want to make a difference. We want to be a country that continues to make things. We want to be a country that continues to manufacture things like buses.

The member also raised with me the impact from putting a price on carbon. What the member may not be aware of is that we have specifically allocated literally over $1 billion to work with our manufacturing sector to support them in competitiveness, and we will be supporting them in competitiveness because we want to see a strong manufacturing sector and we want to see the jobs that come with manufacturing for the future.

What I will not tolerate and what we will not do on this side of the House is things like the half a billion dollar cutback to assistance for the automotive industry—that is part of the opposition's plans—we will not do that, because we are very determined to support Australian manufacturing and the jobs of the workers within it.