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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1676


Mrs MIRABELLA (Indi) (16:03): How wrong the member for Throsby is. He did not seem to talk much about cars. I would have thought he would get some speaking notes from the Minister for Industry and Innovation—and where is the industry minister, by the way? This is such an important issue for a matter of public importance, but where is the industry minister? Where are the industry minister's speaking notes for the member for Throsby? His contribution was woeful and embarrassing. All we saw from him was a stunt. He always prefers jawboning in parliament rather than jawboning his senior colleagues and telling them to get rid of the carbon tax, telling them to adopt a coherent and visionary industry policy.

I remind the member for Throsby that it was only a few months ago that Mike Devereux, the Chairman and Managing Director of GM Holden and the President of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, said when referring to a deal he made with the Prime Minister in 2008:

We cut a deal with the prime minister and then midway through ... the rules of the game changed ... it certainly worries a multinational parent when sovereign risk begins to be something that is bandied about in terms of doing business in Australia.

Who would have thought this great developed economy of ours would be described as a country with sovereign risk. It is the first time that any of us can remember the car industry specifically raising the issue of sovereign risk in Australia—and that is entirely the Labor Party's own doing. It is because of their own incompetence and untruths. They promised the earth, the moon and the stars to the industry during an election campaign to get elected, knowing they could not deliver on those promises and would be cutting them afterwards.

Although people might be drawn to laugh at the member for Throsby's MPI and his lack of knowledge about the car industry, it actually makes you want to cry. He talks in his MPI about a secure future. Surely that is the height of irony. No government in Australian history has left the industry more uncertain about its future than this miserable administration. Under no government in Australian history has there been a greater crisis in Australian manufacturing. Under no government in Australian history has there been a worse rate of manufacturing job losses. Already 130,000 have gone since the middle of 2008, and I am afraid to say more job losses are forecast, particularly if the government persist with their job-destroying policies and the carbon tax. And is it any wonder in such circumstances? In the wake of removal of responsibility in the recent reshuffle, manufacturing policy, for the first time in living memory, was taken out of cabinet. And even Ian Jones, the National Divisional Secretary of the AMWU Vehicle Division—member for Throsby, I hope you are hearing this—said, 'The Prime Minister'—that is, Ms Gillard—'does not understand manufacturing's importance to the economy.' Straight out of the mouth of the AMWU.

Those on the other side do not understand the importance of manufacturing. Why would they, Marcel Marceau like, remain silent when the Prime Minister forged ahead with the carbon tax? We see it every day: Alcoa, the cement industry, food processing, the Furnishing Industry Association—anyone you turn to. I cannot hear any industry association saying, 'Horray! Thank you, Prime Minister. You've given us the carbon tax. That's going to secure our future.' They are saying the exact opposite. Let us hear from a recent report, only a few days ago, from the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers Chief Executive, Richard Reilly, who said: 'We are going to be impacted by a carbon tax and our competitors won't.' That is pretty simple; that is pretty straightforward. Even someone who only speaks one language, be it English, should be able to understand that. The automotive products manufacturers employ 46,000 Victorians in my home town. This is what they said to warn the government that the industry is in a fragile position: 'Many manufacturers are operating on very narrow profit margins if any at all.' Let us face it: you do not introduce compensation if you do not injure someone. This government is saying, 'Gee, we are going to create all these green jobs.' They cannot tell us how many. 'We will destroy jobs in the meantime. We will impose a $460 million carbon cost on the auto industry, but we will give you compensation.' That is, if you are eligible for it. As we have seen with aluminium today, even if you are eligible, it probably will not cover the full cost of your injury in the first place.

Those on the other side ravenously feed on vulnerable Australians' anxiety about job losses. They have got form on this. Let us remember the desperate scare campaign that the likes of the member for Corangamite and the abysmally incompetent so-called minister for manufacturing have been running in communities like Geelong. Let me remind the House what happened during the last election when the member for Corangamite specifically made a claim about a proposed $278 million cut that we had announced. We were being upfront and honest with the industry; we were going to cut the Green Car Innovation Fund by $278 million. And do you know what the member for Corangamite said? 'It is going to destroy Geelong.' The entire city of Geelong was going to be destroyed. But the same member—the very same man—was silent, was mute, when the Labor Party proceeded to smash the $885 million fund only months after the 2010 election. Fancy that.

I watched the member for Corangamite and he was again silent, mute, when Labor kept on breaking their promises, and they all add up. And being a diligent shadow minister I had to make sure I added them up so that my colleagues and those on the other side of the House and the Australian public could be aware of the gross extent of the misinformation and broken promises of the Labor Party. They have broken $1.4 billion in promises to the car industry. They have hiked up the luxury car tax and made changes to the fringe benefits tax, and what happens from the other side? Not a word.

Labor members must also surely have the tinniest of tin ears to seriously bring this motion on today of all days, after the humiliation and pounding that their colleague Senator Carr took in estimates yesterday, as the whole policy of the car industry was taken apart piece by piece before his eyes. Maybe members on the other side were not following that part of estimates very carefully, but let me inform you what happened.

The Automotive Transformation Scheme, the ATS, is the biggest fund from which assistance is given to the auto industry and it is a retrospective scheme. Certain parameters need to be achieved: production outcomes, investment in R&D, investment in plant and equipment. Guess what we found out in estimates yesterday? Unilaterally, without a public announcement, the government has now said: 'It's okay. You don't have to comply with any of these requirements for funding. If there is money left over in the fund, well, it is up to us—if you're nice to us we might give it to you.' That breaks every rule of responsible, transparent government. If you were to extend that logic, you would go to every single government grant and say: 'Oh, gee, there is money left over in this fund. Why don't we just give it to you anyway. Let's go to every single other portfolio.' That is no way to behave, particularly when the government is borrowing $100 million a day and indebting the future generations of this country.

What happened at estimates was interesting. Senator Carr was asked, 'Well, when did this all change?' He said, 'Oh, there were parameter changes.' He told us that he thought it was in about November last year in a speech. So I went and took out the speech. It was an address to the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers. I had a look. He talks about parameters. He says:

I have always emphasised that the New Car Plan is not a set and forget policy.

The Plan sets the parameters—

blah blah blah. There is no description. There is no explanation that the ATS has changed and now, instead of the department at arms length assessing an application, the government can decide who gets what money out of the ATS.

What does that tell components manufacturers who are drafting their application? How do they know what they need to comply with? The minister in Senate estimates could not point to a single criterion on which this funding was based. That is an absolute disgrace. I suggest that members on the opposite side read the Hansard from yesterday's Senate Economics Legislation Committee hearing, specifically the questions asked by Senator Ryan.

There is one word missing from this MPI, and that is the word 'effective'. The approach of this coalition to car industry funding has always been, just as it continues to be, that such funding must be accountable and sustainable and deliver long-term benefits to the industry and, equally as important, to the Australian taxpayer. We do not think that taking Australian taxpayers' money and throwing it around just to buy time is the responsible thing to do.

Governments do not have any of their own money. It belongs to the Australian people. Where it is given in grants, where an industry or a business has the privilege of receiving a grant, there is a corresponding responsibility to use that money wisely. And the responsibility also falls on the government to ensure that they have the guidelines and parameters to ensure that that money is used wisely.

We have heard over the years the Leader of the House mock various rural programs, businesses that have gone under and the rest of it. He uses it all the time. Where is he? Where is he defending transparency in the now ripped apart, debunked ATS?

We have provided generous support to the car industry and we do want to see a viable auto industry, but we are going to do it with set parameters and guidelines through a transparent system. We had a plan, devised by John Howard, which was to go from 2002 to 2015, with a Productivity Commission review in 2008. Mr Rudd ripped all of that and in his usual shambolic way went on to make the promises and rip $1.4 billion out of the industry. But it is not just us, it is not just components manufacturers and it is not just the car industry saying that the carbon tax is going to affect them or criticising the manner in which this government throws money, whether it is cheques to dead people, overpriced school halls or pink batts. Last month, from Mr Weatherill's office—this is leaking from state Labor—it was leaked that they said 'Carr was just ready to hand the money over' in grant discussions with Holden and did not care about anything other than that it would tide them over for a while. So as long as Senator Carr can buy a bit of time, perhaps featherbed and line those who are on his side, he is in his element.

Well, we will not go down that path. We will have transparency. We want a viable, sustainable industry and that is what we will fight for against this shambolic, disgraceful government. (Time expired)