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Monday, 28 May 2012
Page: 5878


Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (17:27): I have heard a fair bit of nonsense talked in this House but the member for Wright takes the cake. That was a truly extraordinary exhibition of ignorance, really. He talks about surpluses and carries on like a pork chop. Spain had a surplus like ours, but they adopted policies of austerity, not unlike the coalition want, where you do not spend anything, and it plunged their economy into recession. That is what happens when you do not have a fiscal boost in those times when demand falls away. That is why we did it.

He talks about ports. That is all very well and good. We all want to invest in nation-building infrastructure. For instance, in my electorate the government built the Northern Expressway, which is an expressway which goes from Port Wakefield Road to Gawler. That is a project that was fast-forwarded as a result of the troubles that we found ourselves in during the global financial crisis. But you cannot simply rely on those big infrastructure projects to pull you out of a recession because they take too long to get going. That is the whole point of them. We learnt this during the recession of the 1990s. That is one of the lessons we learnt. It is one of the lessons the Treasury learnt. That is why they said, 'Don't just go with big infrastructure spending; go with middle infrastructure spending, and embolden consumers and give consumers confidence by giving them direct payments.'

The member for Wright talks about the $900 cheques and attempts to discredit important consumer confidence building injections into the economy by saying they went to dead people. Never mind the fact that it happened under John Howard and it regularly happens with all government payments. They go to people's estates. That is what happened because it is unavoidable. What are you going to do—seize money from people's estates? That is the sort of nonsense they put about in this place. Then we have the set-top boxes. So what is he doing? Advocating that grannies—little old ladies sitting in their houses—should not be able to get digital TV? There was all of the nonsense that was put about by the tabloids when Harvey Norman admitted that it could not provide them any cheaper on the scale that we were talking about than anybody else. Then we have Fuelwatch. That was rejected by the Senate, mate. This would have been government policy now. It would have been in place but for the Senate, the other place, knocking it back. It operates in WA, and that place does not seem to have fallen off a cliff. Fuelwatch was a very good policy. I stand by it. I would like to see it implemented. It is a good policy. It is in Western Australia. What would be wrong with that?

Then he starts banging on about a few scientific studies about the moon and about snails. We know what the coalition's policy is: it is to end the study of all science, because we know that they do not like scientific research, particularly on climate change. This is the thing. This is the sort of dark age that we are going to get out of the opposition—the fiscal austerity, which is now being practised in Europe and is a disaster. It has been practised in America by state governments, where they are sacking teachers and cops. They get themselves into exactly the same cycle that happened in the Great Depression, where you actually push economic growth further and further down and it exacerbates your debt position, exacerbates job losses and drives you into ever deepening recessions. This is the sort of nonsense that is put about this place. It is as if the coalition never heard of Keynesian economics. It is as if the Great Depression never existed. They say, 'Australia's just got a great economy, just for the sake of it—just for the hell of it.' They give no credit to Treasury, no credit to the country and no credit to lessons learned over 17 years, since the 1990s. It is complete nonsense. They say one thing: 'Oh, yeah, we'd support stimulus.' The reality is that, if you were faced with the same circumstances, you would have done exactly the same thing and, if you did not, you would have been throwing 200,000 people out of work. That is the reality of it.

I did not rise to correct the foolishness of the member for Wright. If I did, I would probably be here all day, so we do not want to do that. I want to talk about automotive manufacturing in my electorate. I know this is of great interest to my brother here, from Geelong. Indeed, it is of great interest to my home town, Elizabeth, as well. Holden has been a great success. Through the GFC we won the Cruze, which is a small car, and you can see the Cruze on streets all over the place. It is a great testimony to Australian manufacturing. That was done with government assistance. We won it at a time when GM in America was going into bankruptcy, sadly. They have now emerged from bankruptcy. They were supported by the government. A lot of conservatives over there were saying, 'Let GM go. Let it fail.' Now it is going gang busters. Now they have emerged from bankruptcy, a great American success story. We have the same success story going on in our own country. Basically, what the government has done through a $215 million co-investment, along with the Baillieu government and the Weatherill government in South Australia, is provide $275 million in co-investment to produce two new models and to guarantee Australian car manufacturing at Holden until 2022. That is a great good news story. It secures $1 billion in next-generation investment and $4 billion to the broader Australian economy. It is a terrific investment. I think these things should be celebrated.

Recently, we have had a lot of talk about exporting as the dollar has slightly gone down. We are starting to get a bit excited about exporting cop cars to the United States again. The dollar is the only thing that is stopping us doing that. Holden says that it has forged a new design and engineering partnership with China, of all people. Basically, Holden signed an agreement on 16 April 2012 with Shanghai General Motors and Pan-Asia Technical Automotive Centre to develop new vehicles and affiliates for the Chinese market. This is a fifty-fifty joint venture providing automotive engineering services, design, development, testing and validation for the Chinese market. Isn't that a success story in Australian manufacturing? That is the sort of thing—along with the Cruze—that we want to hear. I have to say that I was never prouder than when I saw Wheels magazine. I am happy to show it to the House. It says 'Holden's BMW', the Torana, is back. That would be exciting news. I am sure everybody in the House would agree that we would love to see the Torana, a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive, turbocharged vehicle, charging up Bathurst again. That would be a pretty exciting thing for all the petrol heads out there, and I include myself among them.

We need to have a bit of a think as to what the alternatives are to co-investment. We know what the alternative is in this House: the Liberal Party are wedded to John Howard's policy, which is not to provide any support after 2015. Sophie Mirabella has reiterated this, and the member for Warringah, the Leader of the Opposition, has reiterated this policy time and time again. What will the effect of that be on the South Australian economy? I will tell you: it will rip $1.5 billion a year out of the South Australian economy. As it is a $1.5 billion cut, that is basically an attack on South Australia, a loss of 16,000 jobs in my state. A good number of those would be in the northern suburbs, because we have the factory. People work where they live.

That is from a reputable report by the University of Adelaide Business School—not a union and not some fellow traveller but the Business School at the University of Adelaide, which is a fine university. The report finds that 2,700 people are directly employed by Holden, and the company purchases some $530 million of goods from core local suppliers, which supports another 5,600 jobs, and that prompts extra employment in retail, transport, construction and other manufacturing around the place. We simply would not have the sort of design capacity, manufacturing capacity and engineering capacity we have now if we did not have Holden in the northern suburbs. It underpins our defence manufacturing and it underpins, I think, what will be our emerging mining services industry as well, hopefully, as the mines of South Australia slowly develop. We have had an exploration boom and we look forward to having a proper fully fledged mining boom. It is something that we want the problems of, if you like.

Recently, I wrote a letter to my newly endorsed opponent, Mr Tom Zorich—and I want to be on the record here as saying that I like Tom. I think he is a worthy opponent, and we have had a longstanding acquaintanceship—friendship even—through the Central Districts footy club, which we both support. Tom was a great president of the club; no-one can take that away from him. But many of us have found Tom's intervention in politics, and particularly for the Liberal Party, somewhat curious. I wrote him an open letter, saying: 'Look, Tom. Fair enough that you've joined the Liberal Party and become their candidate, but what are you going to do to get your party to back the co-investment into Holden Elizabeth, into Holden Australia?' It seems to me that that is a pretty important question for a local candidate to be able to ask about the major factory, the major employer, in the electorate.

Mr Cheeseman: Good question!

Mr CHAMPION: It is a fair question; it is a fair letter to send. I have not got a reply yet. The Bunyip, which is the local paper of Gawler—a very good, very dynamic paper, with interesting local issues—has picked up on the story. It has a bit of a reply from Tom. He accuses me of gutter politics for having the temerity to write to him. Then he goes on to say, 'The best thing we can do with the car industry is to drop the carbon tax that will add over $400 to the cost of building an Australian car.'

Mr Craig Kelly: It's a good start.

Mr CHAMPION: I will take the interjection. 'That sounds like a good start,' is what the member opposite says. But the fact is that the $400 figure is just plain wrong. It is garbage, like the member for Wright's previous speech. The fact is that it is based on a $30 carbon price and it does not factor in any of the industry assistance of the Jobs and Competitiveness Program or the $1.2 billion clean energy program.

Mr Craig Kelly: How much is it?

Mr CHAMPION: I will tell you the direct impact. The direct impact is estimated to be $40 per vehicle—$40! Oh my God—$40 a vehicle! Just to give you a bit of a perspective: every time the dollar appreciates by 1c, the price of a $25,000 car goes up $250. So it just gives you a bit of an idea about where Australia's manufacturing challenges lie: they lie in the high dollar. They do not lie in carbon pricing. My bet is that the carbon-pricing system is designed to reward efficiency. So I am pretty sure that if all these factories and all these suppliers have a good look at their carbon outlays they can lower that figure even further.

A big employer in my electorate, Holden, has now got a guarantee of producing two new models, guaranteeing production to 2022, based on a co-investment by the government. That co-investment is pretty important and it is pretty important that Liberal candidate Tom Zorich actually backs the government and gets in the ear of the Leader of the Opposition and in the ear of his colleagues Mr Briggs from Mayo and others, to try to get them to back the car industry. I know it is hard for him but that is the challenge for him at this election: to get them to support the government's policy. A difficult problem, I think, for his candidacy. But it is terribly important for the local area, because we need car manufacturing. It is the heart of Elizabeth. It is why I spent a lot of time, along with my colleagues in this place, talking to ministers, lobbying ministers and making sure they understood the importance of this industry to South Australia. It is a critical industry for South Australia. We cannot get by without it. It is a critical industry for Australia. It is important that the guys who want to buy utes in Queensland have an Australian choice. It is important that New South Welshmen and those in WA can buy an Australian made car. That is an important thing—to have the Australian choice. There is not a car on the roads these days that is not taxpayer supported. It is just that some are supported by German taxpayers or by South Korean taxpayers or by Chinese taxpayers.

So let us not hear this argument that this is somehow about competitive markets. Every country that produces cars provides support, and often they provide more support than we do. This has been a good policy. It has supported employment, it has supported manufacturing, it has supported exports, it supports Australian success and it should be backed by the Liberal Party. I hope they come to their senses. There would be nothing that would please me more if this were not an issue at the next election, if this were an issue of bipartisan support for the Australian car industry. That is what I want and that is what I would ask my Liberal opponents, both those opposite and locally—Tom Zorich—to do.