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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1680

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (16:18): A funny thing happened the other day. Some of my constituents came up here to Canberra. They work at Holden's. They are just ordinary fellas. They came up here to find out what the government's policy is and they came up here to find out what the opposition's policy is. They had a meeting with the member for Indi and they walked away—like the people in the gallery will walk away and like the public who are listening to this speech will walk away—absolutely clueless about what the alternative government would do to the car industry if they were to be elected to government.

We did not hear a single thing from the opposition in that entire speech about their actual policy. We did not hear a single thing. That is the member for Indi's approach: to simply spend 15 minutes bagging the government and not put anything about their alternative approach in there—very, very little policy. That is what they do when they meet with delegates from Holden's; that is what they will tell the people in the gallery and the people listening. They basically think, 'We don't have to reveal our policy about this very important industry which employs 46,000 people and which a further 200,000 jobs rely on.' They do not think they have to come clean with the Australian people; all they have to do is be negative about the government. That is their main approach.

We know from the member for Throsby about the attitudes on the Liberal Party back bench. There is the member for Mayo, and I saw the member for Bradfield in here before interjecting about what a tragedy it was to be spending taxpayers' money supporting this important industry. The real face of the Liberal Party can be seen on the back bench. That is where their real policy generators are. Their frontbench are just basically focused on the political task of throwing mud at the government and not revealing their own policies.

The reason they do not want to reveal their own policies is that it is going to be a very simple choice at the next election. You can either vote Labor and back Australian jobs, Australian industry and Australian choice for Australian consumers—that is the Labor way—or back the Liberals. The Liberals' way is to undermine Australian jobs, undermine Australian industries and undermine the ability of Australian consumers to buy an Australian car. That is their policy.

You can already see their plan in action. They have sent their pointy-headed economists and their troglodytes out there to get stuck into Holden workers getting a pay rise: 'How terrible! Holden's workers are getting a pay rise. What an outrage!' You see them getting stuck into the provision of assistance to this important industry. You see them out there on all the talk shows bagging the car industry.

It is all part of a coordinated conservative plan to undermine Australian confidence in this very important industry, to obscure the real facts, to spread lies and misinformation, just as we have seen lies and misinformation in the carbon debate and so many other areas. We know that that is their approach: get out there and use the conservative organs, the newspapers and the like, to undermine people's confidence in this very important industry. The truth is that their plan is to offshore the Australian car industry. They are going to close it down and send 46,000 jobs and more overseas. Their plan is to have all of them driving around in BMWs and the rest of the country driving around in some foreign made, unsafe rubbish. That is their policy. People should be well aware of that. People should understand that the reason the member for Indi does not reveal their policy is that if Australians knew it they would not be voting Liberal at the next election. The conservative position is to offshore the Australian car industry. It is a disgrace.

We have to understand the importance of this industry. It is an important industry, and we have to defend it and secure it. It is important that we acknowledge the facts of this matter. Every time the Liberal Party talks about subsidies, the public should be aware of this: in Australia, we provide assistance of $17; in Germany, it is $60; in America, it is $264.

A government member: How much?

Mr CHAMPION: It is $264. We do not operate in a perfect world. We do not operate in some magical world. We operate in a world where other countries subsidise their auto industries. Other countries manipulate their currencies, and it gives them an advantage. We constantly hear from the opposition backbenchers—that is the honest ones like the member for Mayo—about how terrible it is to provide subsidies, but you do not hear them talking about the subsidy originated by the Howard government and provided to the terribly inefficient private health insurers. You do not ever hear about that subsidy—that is a good subsidy! You do not hear about the $549 million provided to mining, or the $700 million provided to the grain, beef and sheep industries, or the $1.46 billion provided to other primary producers in assistance. You do not hear anything about those subsidies, because those industries support the Liberal Party. They are conservative constituencies, so they are all right—that is all okay then. But, if the car industry gets assistance, suddenly it is a terrible blight on the Australian taxpayer. It is just ridiculous. Their whining about assistance is just a mechanism to undermine Australian confidence in this very important industry.

The choice is going to be pretty clear at the next election. Vote Labor and have a car industry and a choice for Australian consumers or vote Liberal and offshore it. I do not think that my state in particular can afford to offshore this industry. The member for Indi was talking about the South Australian government. The South Australian government has a report from the head of the University of Adelaide Business School, Associate Professor Barry Burgan, saying that Holden's Elizabeth plant is worth $1.5 billion to the South Australian economy and that its loss would result in the loss of 16,000 jobs in my state. That is not just people who are directly employed by Holden—people who live in my electorate—but people in retail, hospitality, building, construction, transport and other very important industries. The Liberal Party policy would devastate not just the suburb I was born in but the entire state economy. It would king-hit the entire South Australian economy. That is why it is so surprising to find the member for Mayo being a cheer squad for those who want to outsource the Australian car industry and send those jobs overseas to China, India and Thailand. I think it is disgraceful and it should be opposed.

Thankfully, there are sane voices in Australia. Ziggy Switkowski, a prominent and sensible Australian, wrote in the Australian on 9 February 2012:

… car manufacturing is special and is an industry where Australia has a hundred years of experience and global connections to build upon. We should be very careful about withdrawing from this industry and I don't think we should.

Those are the sentiments of the Australian people. If you go out there and talk to communities—I do not care if that is in South Australia, outback Queensland, Brisbane, Perth or anywhere else—Australians want an Australian choice. They want to be able buy the Cruze. They want to be able to buy the Commodore. They want to be able to buy the Toyota Camry. They want to be able to buy the Falcon. They want to be able to go to Bathurst and watch the Commodore and Falcon battle it out on Mount Panorama. Make no mistake: the Liberal Party policy is about an assault not just on our car industry but—

Mr Tony Smith: What! Are you going to Bathurst now in a Commodore?

Mr CHAMPION: That is right. How else are we going to get up the hill? Are we going to get up there in Tatas or a Great Wall?

Mr Stephen Jones: It will be a billycart!

Mr CHAMPION: Or a billycart—something like that. The problem with the Liberal Party is that they want to offshore this industry but they do not want to be honest about it. They were not honest with workers who came up from my electorate and saw them in good faith, and they are not going to be honest with the public. People are entitled not to give them the benefit of the doubt and to understand the devastating impact that their policy will have on this industry.