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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2078

Mrs DRAPER (2:56 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Would the Deputy Prime Minister advise the House of the latest figures for new motor vehicle sales? How has the Australian motoring public benefited from the policies of the Howard-Anderson government? Minister, are there any alternative policies?

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) —I thank the honourable member for her question and acknowledge her enthusiasm for seeing a vibrant Australian car industry. After people's houses, the biggest purchase in most Australians' lives is a motor car, and Australians have been buying an awful lot of them. Federal Chamber of Automotive Industry figures show that Australian vehicle sales reached an all-time record of 473,516 in the first half of this year. That is an increase of nearly six per cent on the previous record set only last year. Indeed, one manufacturer has for the first time ever in Australia sold more than 100,000 cars in a six-month period, in the last six months. The chamber estimates that for the full sales year this year it is likely that some 960,000 vehicles will be sold. All sectors are up, passenger cars by two per cent, sports utility vehicles by 14 per cent, light trucks by 16 per cent and heavy trucks by 20 per cent. These figures reflect the confidence of new car buyers, and the truck figures reflect the very strong economy and the health of the Australian transport sector.

The industry reports an overall growth of some 15 per cent over the last four years in sales volumes, and industry are quite laudatory in saying that their outstanding figures are the result of very good economic management. They refer to industrial relations reforms and improved productivity and product quality. Of course, the industrial relations reforms effects, coupled with the other aspects of good economic management—good fiscal policy and so forth—have produced more jobs and better paying jobs. As the Prime Minister said, average income levels are up by 14 per cent. All of this has resulted in Australians being able to afford more motor cars and better motor cars. So our policies are indeed making cars more affordable.

I thought it might be interesting to record the cost of vehicles under us compared with their cost when the Labor Party was in power. The standard Australian motor car might be seen as being a Commodore. When the Hawke government came to power in the early 1980s the price of a Commodore was $6,500. By the time they left office it was $26,700—a rise of 300 per cent in 13 years. There was a 300 per cent rise in the price of the Australian family car, a Commodore, in the 13 years of Labor. In 8½ years under us it has risen by just 25 per cent. That is 300 per cent versus 25 per cent. Indeed, when they left office the price of a Commodore represented around 77 per cent of average full-time annual earnings. Under us that figure has come down to 67 per cent. A Toyota LandCruiser is a very popular vehicle in regional Australia. During the years that the Labor Party was in power, a LandCruiser increased in price by 200 per cent. In our 8½ years in government, the figure is just three per cent. That is 200 per cent versus three per cent. Our policies have made owning a car much more affordable.

When you consider interest rates, under Keating, for small business in particular, interest rates were running at 20 per cent plus. Today they are 10 per cent or, if you do it on your housing mortgage, a lot less. In addition to that, the motorist ought to remember that when Labor came to power in 1983 fuel excise was just 7c a litre but when they left office it had increased by 500 per cent to 35c a litre. In the last few years it has risen by just 4c. It has been frozen because we abolished indexation some four years ago. The message is very clear: home owners cannot afford a Labor government and Australia's motorists cannot either.