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Transcript of interview with Lyndall Curtis: ABC 24 Capital Hill: 2 February 2012

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Transcript ­ ABC 24 Capital Hill ­ Thursday 2 February 2012 

03 February 2012 in Media

To watch this interview, please click here.


Hello and welcome to Capital Hill. First it was Toyota shedding some jobs, now Holden's cutting around 100 of its

casual and flexible workforce. The Holden says the high Australian dollar is to blame, the Coalition says there are

some other factors as well. The Government says it's in talks with the car maker over its long term future; those

talks are close to being finalised. The Opposition is still in discussions about the fate of its pledge to cut half a

billion dollars from the car industry assistance. Joining me to discuss this and the day's other topics are Liberal

MP Jamie Briggs and Labor MP Kelvin Thomson. Welcome to you both.


Happy New Year too you.


Well start first with the Prime Minister and the Opposition's reaction to Holden's announcement.



I am determined and Labor is determined that whilst ever Labor is here we will be making cars in Australia. It

comes down to a very simple proposition, are you for jobs or not? We are for jobs. And I reiterate that I believe it

is entirely wrong for Mr Abbott and the Opposition he leads to be anti the jobs of hard workers and to be

determined to rip money out of the industry co-investment with the car industry. We will continue to work with the

car industry we have a package available of the right size, to work with the car industry to make sure that we

continue to manufacture the cars in Australia.


The issue in relation to the car industry is one that Labor always thinks that the answer to a problem is the

quantity of the money that you throw at it, whereas the Coalition approach is the quality of the money, and that is

one of the stark differences between Labor and the Coalition in their approach to managing the issue confronting

the Australian nation.


Kelvin, your Government Ministers talk a lot about the jobs that Labors created but now there's some job

shedding going on, unemployment is creeping up. Does that show there is real pain to come, in the economic

adjustment caused by the high Australian dollar?


There's no doubt the mining boom has been causing the Australian Dollar to rise and that is adversely affecting

other industry sectors, like, manufacturing and tourism and education and so on. Now, you can simply say, as the

Opposition appears to be, that we’ll leave these other industries to it, but we disagree with that and I disagree

with that, because in the first place there are no mining jobs in my electorate, there are, however in Australia,

200,000 jobs in motor vehicle manufacturing, and a million jobs in manufacturing overall and some of those are

most definitely in my electorate. Secondly, what happens when the resources run out? We don’t want to become

another Nauru whose economy collapsed completely once the resources ran out. It is very short sighted to be a

one trick economy.


Jamie is continued government assistance in whatever form it comes in, vital for the survival of the car industry?

Do governments have to keep tipping money in?


Well no, they don't, I mean, at the end of the day what you see is that the money that's been tipped in. I mean,

Kelvin talks about this being a consequence of this terrible mining boom that the Labor Party doesn't like at all, it

is always talking in doubt, it’s always talking about it’s so-called negative consequences. What they forget to tell

you of course, is in the last decade before the so-called dastardly mining boom hit us, the automotive sector

received over $12 billion dollars of government assistance. The problem that the Labor Party and thoughs who

are advocating further co-investment and more taxpayers money for one sector and not another, what they will

never quantify for you is exactly how much money is, which will help this industry survive. There are many factors

outside of the control of this industry and it's hard any type of job goes in our economy, it’s hard for the 500

Westpac workers who have lost their job today as well. But the Government is not going to cull this with Westpac,

for some reason this Labor party thinks that these ANWU workers deserve more attention than anyone else in

the economy. They can’t back it up with any evidence, they never back it up with any evidence, they just make

general assertions, ‘you know if you don’t have manufactory you’re not a real economy’, and it’s just bullocks,

frankly, its complete and utter bullocks.


It’s something that Holden boss said too this morning, he said that government support is necessary for the car

industry not only in Australia but in other countries too.


Well what a surprise that a company would be asking for more money from the government. It doesn’t want to

undertake the necessary reforms it needs to, as Bernie Fraser said last week. A very well known Labor

supporter made the point last week that the car industry needs to be more productive. You had the Toyota boss

today rightly pointing out the industrial relations system in this country is making it impossible for this industry to

compete and you’ve got the carbon tax that’s been put on top of it as well. The Labor Party's only answer to this

is not to reform and make the economy much more efficient and effective, is asking these car companies how

much more money they want. They don’t want to get an outcome, they don’t ever want to tell us exactly how

much it will be to co-invest which will keep the car industry here in the future - they just make these general

assertions that you have got to do it, and if you don’t do it will all disappear and it will be an economic

catastrophe. Well, tell that to the thousands of small businesses each year who never get a cent of government

assistance, who go under out of one circumstance or another, why don’t they get that money that these people



Kelvin should the Government take a good look at the industry assistance to make sure it’s being spent correctly

and is furthering even the aims of the Government to drive innovation to drive industry change.


It’s certainly done that, and continues to do that but really I'm troubled to troubled to hear Jamie suggesting that it

doesn’t matter if we don't have an ongoing motor vehicle manufacturing industry in Australia. I disagree with that

completely. We need the research and the development.


That’s not what I said at all.


We need the engineering skills that come with having that industry. Furthermore, Jamie implies that the

Government is providing financial support for manufactory but not in other areas, that is again untrue because

according to the Australia Bureau of Statistics the financial support provided to the mining industry in 2009/10

exceeded a billion dollars whereas that for manufacturing was around $887 million dollars, so more in

government are very for more in subsidies for mining than manufacturing.


That is simply not true.


There is also substantial Australian Government support for agriculture, for tourism, for other industries as well,

the point is we shouldn’t be a one trick party, we should have it diversified economic base.


Jamie, Tony Abbott outlined at the Press Club earlier this week saying he wants government to be smaller and

should a Coalition government be looking at industry assistance across the board?


Again, there's no evidence, of what Kelvin just put to, the suggestion that mining industry somehow gets

subsidies is completely misleading. What we have said for a very long time, is that the auto manufacturers in this

country - and we are talking about one stream of manufacturing, it does not mean all manufacturing at all, in fact

most manufacturing doesn’t get assistance. We’re talking about one small, three multi-national companies in

effect; get large wads of cash from this Government and for a very long time the Howard Government pursued

transitional assistance which is right to help them adjust which actually puts aside this argument that this is all

driven by the dollar and remember $12 billion over the last decade. The problem now is that the Labor Party is

changing the terms of this and they favor one industry over another, and that has dire consequences for those

industries. I mean, where is Kelvin saying the 500 Westpac workers and I’m sure there is some in his electorate,

why are not important? Shouldn't the Government be co-investing in Westpac today? I mean this is the farce of

the argument. Ultimately, government has a role in our economy, but it's not picking winners. And that’s what the

Labor Party wants to do, the party of pink batts wants to pick the next successful industry in the Australian



Of course, Lyndall, the finance sector jobs are important as well, but the fact is that Australian Government

policies have keep unemployment in Australia much lower than that in other countries which will affected by the

global financial crisis in much greater measure. We have done well in steering Australia through the global

financial crisis.


That’s that dastardly mining industry…


The problem here is that the policy of the Coalition is suggestion taking $500 million dollars out of the automotive

industry is doing damage right now, because people in Detroit and Tokyo and so on look at what is happening in

Australia and the prospect that an Abbott government may remove this money so the Opposition needs to clarify

this issue ASAP.


If we could move on, Kelvin, I couldn't let you go without asking a couple of questions about the Labor leadership.

There are senior figures in the Government who are frustrated with the continuing speculation but there are no

denying some Labor MPs, some Labor MPs are talking about it, what would your message be to those Labor

MPs who are looking at the primary vote and getting nervous about the Labor Party’s position and maybe even

thinking of a leadership change?


Lyndall, at any point in the political cycle - Labor Party, Liberal Party, over time whatever leader, any energetic

journalist can always find half a dozen members of the political party who would like a change of leader. We have

a caucus of 102 members; it doesn't mean a change is going to happen.


You were quite scathing of how things were under Kevin Rudd on the day that Julia Gillard took over the

leadership, it may be hypothetical but what would your view be if Kevin Rudd again sought to take over the



I think it is hypothetical, Lyndall, and I'm not going to fuel it by adding my own commentary to it. It is quite clear to

me that Julia Gillard enjoys the support of the overwhelming number of members to the Caucus and so the

leadership speculation is frankly idle. And we’ve got much more important things that we as a country ought to be

talking about.


Jamie, as you look at the leadership speculation that is going on about the Labor Government, is there a risk that

members of your own party sit back and think your chances of just riding into office is getting easier every day?


Well, quite obviously, Tony Abbott is not doing that. He gave a long and detailed speech two days ago, it was an

excellent speech about his economic direction if he was to become Prime Minister. We don't take anything for

granted but what really is concerning is that Labor Party is involved in this bitter public knife fight, with Ministers

calling other Ministers prima donnas, accusing them of not being loyal team players, when remember the person

they're talking about is the Foreign Minister of our country. I would hope that our Foreign Minister is working in

part of a team and part of a government policy, it does I think show that there's major concern out there, the eye

is off the ball, the Labor Party side, that the, "We are us" speech Julia Gillard gave last year obviously doesn't

include all members of the Labor Caucus.


Does it put more weights on your side to make the economic case to come up with firm figures on how you would

fund your policies?


We're doing that, we are working that through, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb, the Shadow ERC is working

through line by line, looking at each budget proposal we've made, tough decisions. The half-billion dollars we've

removed from, we’ve proposed to be cut from the auto assistance is a good example of that, that was an area

from where we found some savings and will work through and find savings because we know it's important to find

to get the budget back into surplus and to pay down Labor’s debt, to have governments role in our society where

it's needed and not extended beyond that.


That's where we have to leave it, Jamie Briggs and Kelvin Thomson. Thank you very much.


Good to talk with you


Thanks Lyndall.