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Monday, 23 June 2003
Page: 17177

Mr McARTHUR (2:44 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources. Would the minister advise the House of the current situation in Australia's car industry? Are there any threats to this vital sector, particularly to small businesses, from irresponsible industrial action?

Ms Roxon —What about the FTA—

The SPEAKER —The minister has the call.

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Small Business and Tourism) —I will come to that. I would like to thank the member for Corangamite for his question and for carrying the lantern for Bert Kelly, a great defender of free trade; George Reid; and a few other free traders. The flame still burns, and why not?

The member for Corangamite understands the benefits of free trade. He also understands the impact of union thuggery on the automotive industry. That is because in his electorate, in Geelong, we have seen the impact of union thuggery at the Ford plant, on the components industries, on delivery drivers, on truckies and on all the small businesses that rely on the automotive industry, from the sandwich suppliers right through to the components businesses. They are all affected by industrial thuggery.

On top of that, we have the opposition of the unions to any attempt to expand the potential market for car sales. It is no wonder that last year the head of Ford, Geoff Polites, complained about trade union militancy. He said that the marginal cost of importing from Japan was a hell of a lot less than losing a couple of days of production. He would know. As the head of Ford, he is basically saying that the impact of union thuggery is far worse than any changes to trade rules. A free trade agreement with the United States provides Australian workers and Australian manufacturers with access to a third of the world's market and the world's biggest car market.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Rankin.

Mr HOCKEY —I am asked what the car industry thinks. The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, representing Holden, Ford, Toyota and Mitsubishi, believes that zero tariffs between the US and Australia would boost exports, sustain the local industry and increase economies of scale. We say, `Hear, hear' to that. Holden will start shipping 18,000 Monaros—great cars: V8s, good-looking cars too—to the United States. The spokesman said that they believe a FTA will help boost Australia's economy and secure more exports. The only people who seem to oppose a free trade agreement are our old mate Dougie Cameron, who is leading the charge in industrial action against the automotive industry, and Sharan Burrow.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Gellibrand.

Mr HOCKEY —When you look for a view from the Labor Party, do not look at the member for Hotham. He likes to talk about policies; he does not have a policy on this. His mate Premier Carr says:

It is in Australia's interests to link ourselves with the world's most dynamic and creative economy. It's about more than trade, it is about more than investment, and it doesn't rule out Australia's growing economic relationship with East Asia.

Australia's most successful Labor leader supports a free trade agreement. Premier Beattie says:

A free trade agreement with the United States has my support because it has the potential to offer Queensland exporters unfettered access to a market of 280 million people.

One of Australia's most successful Labor leaders, the Premier of Queensland, says that he supports a free trade agreement with the United States. We wonder what the Labor Party's view is on a free trade agreement. For too long now, the Labor Party has been sending its union mates out to oppose a free trade agreement with the United States because the Labor Party does not believe that the everyday Australian worker can compete with the everyday American worker. We on this side of the House have great faith in the Australian worker. We believe that the Australian worker can compete pound for pound on an equal footing with the American worker. We will back the Australian workers and we will back Australian jobs.