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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 1458

Automotive Industry


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:45): My question without notice is to Senator Abetz, representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the tragic and totally avoidable announcement by General Motors Holden today, announcing the end of manufacturing—

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Carr is entitled to be heard in silence.

Senator KIM CARR: General Motors' statement announcing the end of manufacturing in Australia notes that the company understands the government's point of view. Does the minister acknowledge that the government ripped $500 million from the automotive industry pre-2015—

Senator Brandis: How many job losses on your hands, Kim? You did it!

Senator KIM CARR: and provided nothing but uncertainty after that?

Senator Cameron: The answer is yes!

The PRESIDENT: Order! I cannot hear the question with the interjections. I am entitled to hear the question, as is the minister.

Senator KIM CARR: I would ask: are you proud of your success in driving General Motors Holden out of manufacturing in Australia?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence on both sides we will proceed. On both sides! Order!










Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:47): Can I give Senator Carr a history lesson, and also a lesson in how he ought to deport himself in this place?

When he was the minister for industry and I was the shadow minister for industry, the Mitsubishi motor company left Australia, and it no longer manufactures here. I took the point of view that politics should not be played with the issue, and I did not seek to lay blame at the feet of the Labor government. It is a pity that Senator Carr cannot bring the same maturity and statesman-like approach to this issue.

In relation to GM's statement, I would invite the shadow minister to have a look at the second paragraph, which included, tragically and avoidably, the comment that one of the reasons was the 'high cost of production'. I wonder if energy costs might have had something to do with that? I wonder whether the carbon tax might have had something to do with that? I wonder whether the FBT might have had something to do with that? I wonder whether the rate of company tax might have had something to do with that?

And even if none of those had anything to do with that: talk about ripping money out of the car industry—who said this?

Unfortunately the Green Car Innovation Fund was abolished, leaving international company executives wondering just what they had to do to get a consistent government policy commitment in Australia.

It was said by none other than Senator Kim Carr himself! It was Senator Kim Carr himself voting no confidence in the previous Labor government in which he served as industry minister. (Time expired)


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:49): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Why did the government establish a Productivity Commission review of automotive industry assistance to provide 'policy certainty', but weeks later demand an immediate decision from Holden about its future?

Senator Cameron: A show trial, that's what it was!

Senator Ronaldson: No more cash for clunkers!

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence on my left I will call the minister. Order!





Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:50): We actually listened to Senator Kim Carr, because when he was condemning the government of which he was a senior cabinet minister, and said that it was important to get a consistent government policy commitment, we thought it might be a good idea to get that consistency via a proper inquiry courtesy of the Productivity Commission—something that the former minister himself had six years to do, to get the sort of consistency that he acknowledges did not exist under his stewardship of the ministry.

And so we believed that it was an appropriate thing to do. Little did we realise that GM was at the cusp of making its decision, which it has now announced. And can I simply say to the honourable senator that the Australian people will not believe that GM made this decision after 2½ months of coalition government, without any impact from the factor of six years of Labor government. (Time expired)


Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:51): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware the decision was made yesterday afternoon, after the Acting Prime Minister's letter and after seven days of senior ministers abusing General Motors in background briefings? Can we now confirm that this government's reckless behaviour demonstrates that the Prime Minister's commitment to Australian jobs is an empty promise, like other empty promises he has made to the Australian people before the election?

Government senators interjecting

Senator Ronaldson: They know what a fraud you are! Have a look behind you!

Senator Wong: You cannot have senior economic ministers backgrounding!

The PRESIDENT: Order! On my right! And my left! Order!

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my right and my left! If honourable senators wish to debate this, the time for that is after three o'clock.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: On my right, on my left! Minister.







Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:52): Thank you, Mr President. One wonders where Senator Carr parked his crocodile after that display of crocodile tears! Can I say to the Senate, Peter Hodgman announced that he was going to run for the seat of Huon yesterday in the state of Tasmania. Lots of things happened yesterday that bear absolutely no relationship to GM's announcement today. This is trying a matter of trying to say that two types of activities are interlinked. They might be coincidental; they are not causal. They are coincidental and not causal, and that is something that Senator Carr and those opposite need to understand and reflect upon. The reality is this is a devastating blow to thousands of Australian workers.

Senator Kim Carr: You are responsible!

Senator ABETZ: Senator Carr foolishly forgets his own commentary on his own government when he said it was the inconsistency of his government's policy that left international executives wondering. (Time expired)