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Thursday, 12 December 2013
Page: 1666

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (15:52): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Employment (Senator Abetz) and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Ronaldson) to questions without notice asked by Senators Farrell, Carr and Conroy today relating to the automotive industry.

These were, of course, questions that were asked by non-government senators, because there was not one question presented to this chamber from the government side. There was not one attempt to seek information about the consequences of the social and economic catastrophe which has been brought into this country as a direct result of the government's policy to drive General Motors out of Australia. What we did get was a stunt, at the beginning of question time, to attempt to avoid scrutiny. Now we have a clear example of the way in which this government operates. It pays a lot of attention to the politics of a situation but absolutely no attention whatsoever to the substantial policy questions.

General Motors, after the swearing-in of the government on 18 September, presented the government with a business case, on 3 October, in which they required assistance to meet $1 billion worth of new investment for the new generation motor vehicles in Australia, which would take production through to the middle of next decade. We have a minister here today who did not know about it. He did not know anything about the business case that has been put. He did not know anything about whether or not the Prime Minister has actually taken any interest in this matter. He did not know anything about the fact—which is now revealed for all to see—that the Prime Minister not once sought to discuss that business case with General Motors. He did not visit them and did not discuss the question with General Motors. But, as of Thursday, 5 December, a campaign was launched by senior members of this government to try and drive General Motors out of Australia—and they were very successful; what an incredible success indeed.

Yesterday, when the Treasurer was presented with the news, he said he was not surprised that this should have happened. He is right: he should not be surprised given the amount of energy he has put into driving this company away from Australia. We should not be surprised that this government has acted with such complete cavalier disregard for the welfare of workers in this industry, or the national economy or the regional economy. We also heard today that, despite the deliberate efforts of this government to drive this company out of Australia and end manufacturing in the automotive industry, there has been no strategy put in place and no thought given to the consequences of this, other than an attempt to draw upon a Labor program—the Automotive Industry Structural Adjustment Program—which would have been overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster that this government have brought to this country.

We have seen the unparalleled hostility of this government to the automotive industry.

Senator Heffernan: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. There were discussions before the election about the timing of Holden, and they were discussions with members of the Labor Party—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Heffernan, you know that is not a point of order. You do not have the call. There is no point of order. Senator Carr, you have the call.

Senator KIM CARR: The senator is actually quite right. The opposition, as it was as the time, was given extraordinarily full detail about the business case that General Motors had, but took no action to deal with it. The opposition at the time knew that they could have fixed this problem for less than $150 million a year. Now we are going to have to spend billions and billions of dollars to repair the damage that has been created by the extraordinarily ruthless and reckless attitude that this government has taken to one of the most important industries in manufacturing in this country.

We heard extraordinary statements being made by the Deputy Prime Minister, who was the Acting Prime Minister at the time, demanding an immediate answer from General Motors, despite the fact that the Minister for Industry had actually asked them to delay a decision. Nonetheless, upon hearing the decision of General Motors, we had the industry minister expressing most audaciously that he was disappointed that Holden hadn't given the Australian government time to complete the process—after there was an answer demanded of them by the Acting Prime Minister. He said he was floored. What an extraordinary proposition! It was a deliberate and destructive campaign launched by senior members of this government, who were backgrounding journalists and our media organisations for seven days straight, and they were demanding the company leave the country. The Treasurer said, 'You're either here or you're not.'

We know what happened. There was a text message sent to Detroit and there was a direct line feed to Detroit on question time yesterday. That is what happened. (Time expired)