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Wednesday, 13 November 2013
Page: 247

Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (16:56): I appreciate the opportunity to speak on an issue that is a particular passion of mine. The people in the automotive industry—the employers, the manufacturers and the people who work there—wish to God you people would play the issue and not the person. They are not interested in your petty ideologies. They are not interested in your playing the blame game. They are interested in actual results, and this issue has been bounced around and around this chamber through successive governments of all persuasions time and time again. It is about the future of an important industry. More importantly, it is about people, communities and skills in our nation. It is about national security. It is about companies having the ability to amortise the costs of high-tech machinery that the automotive industry brings and the R&D that it brings.

Time and time again, people in this house make ill-informed decisions and insulting comments about our manufacturers and tradespeople and their ability to produce world-competitive products. On this point I commend the South Australian government for its recent launch of the More Than Cars website, which delves into the wider implications of abandoning the car industry. In direct contrast to the South Australian government's approach, in my home state of Victoria the Napthine government is asleep at the wheel. Victoria's decision makers need to understand the full ramifications of the loss of such an important industry. Hopefully the FCAI report will wake them up to these wider implications.

Further to this point, I would like to relay an experience I had last week when driving home from Melbourne, going over the West Gate Bridge, when I called into Socobell at the side of the West Gate Bridge in Spotswood. Socobell is a family-owned business with almost four decades of experience. It has 350 workers across three plants in western metropolitan Melbourne. It has state-of-the-art facilities. It is at the cutting edge socially, economically and environmentally. Socobell is an Australian-owned company specialising in the manufacture of high-quality precision plastic components and complex assemblies for the auto industry. The future of Socobell, like that of many similar companies, is entirely dependent on the future of the automotive manufacturing sector.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate a key point made in the FCAI report: continued support for the Australian automotive manufacturing industry should not be thought of as just a defensive measure to prevent the loss of national output and welfare that would occur if the industry were to shut down. If barriers to Australian exports could be lowered, the Australian industry would make a further significant contribution to the Australian economy.

Debate interrupted.