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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 24

Automotive Industry

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:10): My question is to the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator Sinodinos. I refer to an article published in the Australian Financial Review on 24 January titled 'Accepting industries will die: Sinodinos' in which the minister urged Australians not to be too nostalgic about dying industries, saying, 'nothing is forever.' Minister, is this the best advice you can give the 200,000 Australians whose jobs depend upon the automotive industry but who now face such an uncertain future?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesMinister for Industry, Innovation and Science) (14:11): I thank the shadow minister for his question. I was talking about the natural process in the economy where over time some industries will thrive and others will start to contract, and the role of government is to manage the transition. Where there is a role for government to assist growth in jobs and industry, we will do that on my watch. In my press release on my appointment I talked about the fact that, for example, I see a real future for high-value manufacturing in Australia. I am proud to report that manufacturing employment was 957,000 in the November quarter of 2016—an increase of 90,900 jobs, or 10.5 per cent, from the August quarter, and averaging 902,000 over the year, after employing 868,000 people in November 2015. So manufacturing is not dying in this country—quite the reverse; it is getting better and it is going to become more high-value.

We are going to have more advanced manufacturing, including in the automotive sector, where the transition is occurring. We are focusing on more high-value activities. The sorts of activities we are talking about include engineering research and development—all the high-value activities which will then contribute to our role in the automotive supply chains which today are global supply chains. You have to recognise that the assembly of cars is only one component of the industry, and the high-value components increasingly are in engineering research and development. Ford, Holden and other car companies are focusing and concentrating their activities in countries like Australia on that high-value end because they know the potential we have in that sector and the research forces we can bring to bear.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, a supplementary question.

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:13): Last week the Prime Minister told the National Press Club, 'everything we're doing is delivering more investment and more jobs.' Minister, is this not simply an empty sentiment given the fact that it was your government that goaded Holden and Toyota to leave Australia, resulting in not more but less investment and fewer jobs?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesMinister for Industry, Innovation and Science) (14:14): My memory, if it serves me correctly, is that Mitsubishi announced plans to close in 2008. I remember in 2013 Toyota announced that it would be closing in Australia. Regrettably, last week we had confirmation that that will occur in October of this year. The decline of manufacturing in the automotive sector in this country was something overseen by the Labor Party. It went too far for us to be able to reverse it, so what we are doing is easing the transition into an import sales model with more focus on research and development.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, a final supplementary question.

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:14): I remind the minister that it was his government that cut the assistance to the automotive industry. Minister, are you so consumed by the divisions and dysfunction in your party room that you do not understand what these job losses mean for workers and their families?

Senator SINODINOS (New South WalesMinister for Industry, Innovation and Science) (14:15): I hit the ground running. I have been speaking to Toyota. I am speaking to the Victorian minister, Wade Noonan, this afternoon, about what more we can do in terms of easing the transition for those parts of Victoria and South Australia where there will be issues as we transition to this new model. We are getting on with the job. We are getting on with jobs. We are not sitting here contemplating our navels and we are certainly not focused on the sort of internal bickering you see in the Labor Party as they work out how to replace Bill Shorten, the failing Labor leader.