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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7884

Automotive Industry


Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:58): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator Cash. In 2013, the then Treasurer Joe Hockey goaded the motor industry into leaving Australia, saying:

There's a hell of a lot of industries in Australia that would love to get the assistance that the motor vehicle industry is getting.

Can the minister confirm that at the time the Australian government's co-investment in the automotive manufacturing was the lowest of any country with an auto industry?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:59): I thank Senator Farrell for his question, and, no, I can't. I disagree with you in relation to the statement that you made about Joe Hockey. What I can say is this: Graham Richardson—a former member of the Labor Party and a former member of cabinet—has today gone on the record and written an op-ed in The Australian. This is what he says in relation to the car industry:

The billions of dollars doled out to GMH, Ford and Toyota during the 80s and 90s and beyond was good money thrown after bad.

This is Graham Richardson, former member of a Labor cabinet.

I sat in cabinet meetings where all of us … were too frightened to tell the workers of Adelaide that this would not end well. … billions of dollars were shovelled at the industry in the certain knowledge it would only delay what fate had destined to occur.

Colleagues, that is a former cabinet minister in the Labor government who has decided enough is enough. He has gone on the record to say exactly what occurred in the Labor cabinet when those opposite were in power.

But, of course, Senator Kim Carr has piped up in the Adelaide Advertiser and said:

I took to Cabinet a proposal to do two new Holden models … and had a plan for $300 million a year in support …

This begs the question: what happened to it? What happened to it, Senator Carr? If the Rudd-Gillard government agreed to it, why are we only reading about it years and years later? I think it's because what Graham Richardson says is true.

Senator Kim Carr interjecting

Senator Cormann interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cormann and Senator Carr! Senator Farrell, a supplementary question?



Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:01): Thank you for that protection, Mr President. The minister anticipated my next question. Can the minister confirm that, prior to the Liberal government announcing cuts to the co-investment in the auto industry of $500 million, both Toyota and Holden were actually looking to expand their operations with new models in Australia?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (15:01): Tom Phillips, former chief executive of Mitsubishi said: 'Consumer shifts and the sheer volume of models available as the market opened up, meant that Australian car manufacturers were also battling. The car industry made a deliberate decision over a very long period of time that it was not economically viable to continue in Australia.' Let me give you some figures under Labor. In 2007, the annual total sales of locally produced vehicles was 200,045. In 2008 it was 171,042; in 2009, 147,680; in 2010 146,314; in 2011, 141,139; in 2012, 139,796; and in 2013, 118,510. That was under you, Senator Carr.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Farrell, a final supplementary question?



Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:02): Yesterday, the minister told the automotive workers: 'The government stands with you.' Was the Liberal government standing with auto workers when it slashed support for the auto industry and goaded manufacturers to leave Australia?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (15:03): As I have already stated, and as those on the other side know, and particularly with those statistics, the car industry made a decision, not under this government, not under the former government; it made a decision based on economics. This government, though, has proudly worked with those in the car industry—with the industry, the employers and the workers—to ensure that we are assisting manufacturers to move into advanced manufacturing. We have provided specific auto industry transitional assistance since 2013.

For example, as we discussed yesterday, I announced almost $30 million in grants to businesses in Senator Carr's home state of Victoria and in South Australia, to ensure that these businesses are able to grow and to prosper. The government has also helped businesses transition to new industries. There has been $255 million in assistance to since 2013. (Time expired)

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.