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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1192

Economy


Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (14:36): My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Minister for Industry and Innovation. What are the practical benefits to the economy of the government's industry support and co-investment policies? What are the obstacles to the continuation of this support?


Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Industry and Innovation and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (14:36): I thank the member for Wakefield, who has a keen interest in manufacturing policy in particular, with General Motors Holden located in his electorate and many of the workers living in that area. The fact of the matter is that we have very strong economic foundations in this country. When you look at it, particularly by comparisons internationally, we unquestionably have a strong economy—we have good GDP growth, we have low unemployment, we have contained inflation, we have had interest rates coming down and we have a very strong pipeline of private sector investment. This is a good investment environment, and the fundamentals are undoubtedly strong.

But the government realises, of course, that there are some sectors of the economy that are facing some pressures, particularly from the high value of the Australian dollar.

One of those industries, for example, is the automotive manufacturing sector. It is one of the reasons why the government has worked with and investing in the industry—to improve productivity, to improve competitiveness and to support jobs.

A great example of that is our $40 million co-investment with General Motors Holden. That investment is one of the reasons that Holden has been able to design, engineer and build the new Commodore, which will not only be sold in Australia but also be exported to the US market. It will support thousands of jobs in the electorate of Wakefield and the northern area of Adelaide in particular. The investments that we are making in the auto industry are designed to assist the industry, through very difficult times, to achieve a competitive position when our exchange rate is at parity with the US dollar and to support no fewer than 250,000 jobs in that industry.

All of that is at risk because the coalition has a policy of abolishing $1.5 billion worth of that assistance, of that co-investment with the motor vehicle—

Mrs Mirabella: A lie! That is a lie!

The SPEAKER: The member for Indi will withdraw.

Mrs Mirabella: I withdraw.

Mr COMBET: That is a very important policy comparison. The fact of the matter is that there are very significant differences between the two. All of those jobs in the automotive manufacturing sector, in the electorate of Wakefield and many others, are fundamentally dependent upon important partnerships between the industry and government. The coalition represents a risk to every single one of those jobs through that investment strategy.

We are seeing that strategy work. The government are working closely with manufacturing industry more generally—and we will soon have more to say about it. We are determined to maximise the opportunities for Australian workers in manufacturing, to work with the industry to become competitive in the tough circumstances that are currently facing us and to bring the best minds in business and in research together to make sure that we meet the competitive challenges of the future. On the other side, there is no policy. There is no policy but a threat to people's jobs. (Time expired)