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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 6466


Senator MILNE (8:44 PM) —I rise to indicate that the Greens will be supporting the coalition’s amendment to this legislation. I notice that Senator Carr remarked that, if the Greens’ amendment which was not supported had been supported, it would have stopped the industry overnight. What a load of nonsense. Today the government’s own advisers indicated to the Greens that the regulations will be ready for discussion in October. There will be consultation with the community and the industry in October-November, and those regulations will be in here then. What we are being asked to do is to hand over billions of dollars to the car industry now. After the car industry has got the money, the government will then go back to them and say, ‘What do you want the conditions to be pertaining to this money?’ So the government will give away all its leverage.

I also want to make the point that for years I have been arguing to Senator Carr that people want to buy smaller, fuel efficient cars and that, as I indicated, the money to the industry should be tied to vehicle fuel efficiency and moving to plug-in electrics. I note here that, as recently as August, there were articles in the paper pointing out that, whilst Commodore remains the country’s top selling car, roughly two-thirds of its sales come from government and business fleet buyers. That is precisely my point about procurement. The government is propping up the old industry sector; but, inevitably, it will not be able to do that in the long term. The longer you prop up inefficiency and things that people do not want to buy, the more guarantee there is that, in the long run, the whole thing will collapse, and you will lose all the jobs associated with it. That is certainly my experience. For years, I have heard people say: ‘You can’t expect this industry to meet these standards. It is terrible. You’ll put people out of work.’ But, by not expecting them to meet the standards, you are guaranteeing that there will be dislocation and that they will be put out of work as the rest of the world moves beyond it.

Interestingly, the same article that points out that two-thirds of the sales for Commodores come from government and business fleet buyers also notes that the Toyota Corolla and the Mazda3 are more popular with private buyers and that, as a result, sales of Commodore and Falcon have halved since 2003. That is the fact of the matter. As I reiterate, the community does not want to buy these big gas guzzlers. Targeting Middle East sales for big cars is, I think, a foolish move. If we want to be cutting edge, we should be setting standards and conditions on public money that require the industry to be cutting edge, because that is the way you drive innovation and that is the way you guarantee jobs into the future. Allowing the industry in Australia to determine its own terms is a guarantee that cutting edge vehicles will be produced in the US, in China and in Europe but not in Australia. It is incumbent on this government to insist that we get cutting edge for $3 billion.