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Wednesday, 21 June 2000
Page: 15341


Senator CHAPMAN (3:09 PM) —It is interesting that in the gamut of Senator Quirke's remarks this afternoon we have not heard any comment from him in relation to the issue of low volume vehicle imports. We do not even know where the Labor Party stand on this issue. All Senator Quirke is trying to do is stir up mischief within the government, mischief that is completely unfounded. As I said, where do the Labor Party stand on this issue? Where do they stand in relation to the very complex issues that have had to be dealt with in determining the government's position on this matter?

I want to lay to rest any suggestion that there has been inadequate consultation within the government in determining the government's policy position in relation to the issue of low volume vehicle imports. In fact, I can identify no less than seven meetings of the government members' industry, science, resources, sport and tourism committee over the last nine months that have dealt with this issue. These meetings have included discussions with representatives of automotive manufacturers—the main manufacturers in Australia such as Mitsubishi, Ford, Holden and Toyota—and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. They have included meetings with representatives of the low volume importers and the Vehicle Importers and Converters Association of Australia and they have involved no less than three meetings with Minister Minchin and his advisers to discuss the issues surrounding this matter.


Senator Faulkner —That's because you are in the `in' group.


Senator CHAPMAN —No, this is the government members committee that have met to discuss this, I point out to the opposition leader. Further to that, there has also been a roundtable discussion, which I initiated, between representatives of low volume vehicle importers, the manufacturers and the Motor Trades Association. So there has been extensive consultation on this matter before the announcement was made on 8 May by the minister with regard to the government's policy. That policy was fully supported by the members of not only the committee which I chair, the government members industry committee, but also the government members transport and regional services committee. I should point out that these meetings were joint meetings between those two committees because of the joint responsibility for this of Minister Minchin and Minister Anderson, particularly with regard to the administration of the rules relating to low volume vehicle imports. Both of those committees agreed with the policy announcement that was made by the ministers, who jointly brought that proposal to us after it had been approved by cabinet.

I can say that in my experience as chairman of this particular government members committee no issue has ever received the extent of consultation and the extent of discussion between the ministers responsible and the relevant backbenchers who make up those two committees. Not only has there been consultation between the ministers and members of the backbench, but between that backbench committee and the relevant players in the industry, as I have outlined already—the manufacturers, the low volume vehicle importers, the Motor Trades Association and all of those who have an interest in this important issue. Therefore, the decision that has been taken has been taken not only on the basis of widespread consultation with those relevant people in the community but also on the basis of widespread consultation with members of the government parties' backbench. So it needs to be understood that any suggestion that Minister Minchin is guilty of anything that was reported in the press today is complete nonsense, and I reject it absolutely, having been very closely involved in the consultations right through this process, as have all of those backbench members.