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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 239


Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales) (16:22): I find it amazing that the former industry minister Senator Kim Carr is here expressing his concerns about the motor vehicle industry. I have one simple question: who was it that brought in that luxury car tax? Who was that? That was Minister Kim Carr when he was in government. What a terrible situation if a couple work hard and, instead of buying a basic Holden Commodore, they might want to upgrade to a Holden Statesman. What a terrible thing that they worked hard and could afford a bit more luxury. You cannot have that in our nation. Put a tax on that Holden Statesman. What did that do to jobs? This is socialism at its best, and now we have got these people crying about the industry that they did so much damage to.

A simple question: who was in government when Ford Australia announced that they would be shutting down their industry in 2016? Who was the minister? Was it Minister Kim Carr from the Australian Labor Party, industry minister, beating his chest about what he was doing for the car industry? In the meantime under his watch Ford Australia shut down after decades and decades and announced they will be closing down manufacturing in Australia.

There is no denying that the Australian automotive industry is facing a number of significant challenges as it adjusts to the high value of the Australian dollar and highly competitive and fragmented markets. Let's look at the high Australian dollar. There is a continued tie with interest rates and the exchange rate: the higher the interest rate, the higher the exchange rate. Remember the previous Labor government when they were borrowing money and stimulating the economy in 2009? They did it so much that in November 2009, the Reserve Bank started raising interest rates.

Speaking of cars, who drives their car with one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake at the same time? No-one, but this lot in government were pouring money into the economy trying to stimulate it, wasting so much borrowed money while the Reserve Bank were raising interest rates to slow the economy. Of course with interest rates in many of the OECD countries down around zero, it made it very inviting for foreign investors to say, 'Let's grab a bit of this high-interest rate, this 4.75 cash rate in Australia.' Hence the upward pressure on the dollar, the exchange rate, that is the key issue which is hurting the automotive industry in Australia.

It gets worse. We talk about transparency, consultation. I wonder what consultation the previous Labor government had when they announced their $1.8 billion fringe benefits tax on the car industry. We saw immediate results. This is why the government overturned Labor's proposed changes. The new government is getting on with the job and overturning those proposed changes to the fringe benefits tax on cars. The changes were ill-conceived from day one. There was no consultation.

I wonder if then Minister Kim Carr was very proud of the fact that they were going to slam a $1.8 billion fringe benefits tax on the motor vehicle industry. And then he stands up here and says, 'The new Abbott-Truss government is not giving enough attention to the motor vehicle industry,' when he was the minister who had oversight causing the damage in the previous government to the very industry we are talking about.

The leasing industry was blindsided and almost immediately hit with job losses. We read all about it in the papers. We got all the emails.

Senator Kim Carr: No effect on the sales figures!

Senator WILLIAMS: No effect on the motor vehicle industry at all. Just throw $1.8 billion worth of fringe benefits tax on motor vehicles and then they say—

Senator Kim Carr: On imported cars.

Senator WILLIAMS: I will take the interjection: so it wasn't on Australian vehicles? Of course it was on Fords, Holdens and Toyotas. Most of those people using those benefits are what we would call medium-income earners; they weren't the people on a million dollars a year—the very battlers that the Australian Labor Party used to once represent and that were forgotten about years and years ago.

You are more interested in going along with your signed alliance partners here, the Greens, and when are you going to learn? You know what the Greens did to your reputation. When are you going to learn? The vote you just got on September 7 was the lowest primary vote for the Australian Labor Party since 1903. One hundred and ten years go by and you get the lowest primary vote ever and now you are here with your political partners, the Greens. You got the lowest vote in 110 years. When are you going to learn that the Australian people are not silly. They are aware of what you are about. They are aware of the crazy policies you introduced, including on the motor vehicle industry—your $1.8 billion fringe benefits tax—and you say you did not lose any car sales. As they say, the first thing you learn in life is you cannot educate idiots. How true that statement is. It does not end with the fringe benefits tax.

Another ill-conceived idea developed by Labor of course was the carbon tax. What did it cost to produce every car in Australia in extra electricity prices because of that carbon tax that you were never going to introduce, where you deceived the Australian people prior to the 2010 election and you added some $400 a vehicle cost in energy—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, address your remarks to the chair.

Senator WILLIAMS: With pleasure, Mr Deputy President. They introduced the cost of around $400 a motor vehicle for each and every one made in Australia, a tax they promised the Australian people they would not introduce. You wonder why. You get the lowest vote in 110 years when you misled the Australian people on taxes such as that and you hurt the very industry that you are standing up here trying to defend. Eight minutes is not long enough today.

I doubt there is a manufacturer in Australia that has not lamented the impact of the carbon tax on their business. It raises energy prices without reducing greenhouse gas emissions—just amazing. When they were in government, that lot over there, they were going to take emissions from 578 million tonnes per year in Australia to 637 million tonnes. That is not a reduction. Those are the previous government's figures. They go and tax manufacturing in this country, and now they stand here and cry crocodile tears about the very industry that they, in government, did so much damage to.

The coalition has long been committed to ensuring Australia has a competitive manufacturing industry, including a sustainable automotive manufacturing sector. That is why this government has asked the Productivity Commission to examine the best way to ensure the ongoing viability of the automotive manufacturing industry. The industry has seen enough of the big promises made by the previous government. Think of the Green Car Innovation Fund— (Time expired)