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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4791

Automotive Industry

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (14:47): My question is to the Minister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation. How is the government working with Australia's automotive manufacturing industry to support jobs, health and safety and deal with the economic challenges affecting the industry? Why is it critical that we have accurate information about these challenges?

Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation) (14:48): I thank the member for Wakefield for his question because the government is working with Australian manufacturers to support jobs and to improve competitiveness and to improve productivity. Just last February the Prime Minister and I released a $1 billion plan to support manufacturing jobs in particular. We have also got our $5.4 billion new car plan which is assisting the automotive industry. That is $5.4 billion in assistance that the coalition would take an axe to, just like they voted against our $300 million Steel Transformation Plan to support jobs in the steel industry—they would take an axe to that as well—and just like last week the coalition voted against the government's Australian Jobs Bill to give local manufacturers fairer opportunities on major resource projects. We stand for jobs on this side of the House, they stand to axe them.

It is important to rely upon accurate information when considering the challenges facing industries like manufacturing, otherwise policy responses will not have a proper foundation. If you took the approach of the opposition leader to policy development, you would be in all sorts of trouble because he blames everything on carbon pricing. It is responsible for every problem in the country. Over the weekend he once again blamed carbon pricing for Ford's decision to cease manufacturing in 2016 and he once again wrongly and falsely claimed that carbon pricing added $400 to the cost of a car. That is a totally false and mendacious claim that has been disproven on numerous occasions. It relies upon speculation from early in 2011 before the government even announced the carbon price policy. It assumes a carbon price significantly higher than the actual price that is in the market. It assumes there is no assistance to industries like steel and glass, that there is no assistance to industries, and all of his assumptions—of course—are wrong. The opposition leader knows it.

The fact is that the carbon price impact on car manufacturers is about $50 a car, not $400 a car as he falsely claimed. If you compare it to the appreciation in the Australian dollar of just 1c, 1c appreciation equates to about a $250 impact on the competitiveness of an Australian car. So every time the opposition leader repeats this $400 figure he is deliberately misleading the Australian public and the auto manufacturing workforce. That deception was called out on the weekend by none other than the star of today's question time, the member for Wentworth. He had this to say about this claim, 'It would be disingenuous to suggest that the reason Ford is shutting down is because of the carbon tax'. He is on the move. He has been sitting up here at the table and he is absolutely right on that. (Time expired)

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (14:51): Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Further to the minister's answer and the issues he identified for industry, what has been done in recent years in relation to health and safety and asbestos exposure?

Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation) (14:51): I thank the member for Wakefield for his supplementary question because health and safety are a very important part of relationships with the manufacturing industry.

Mr Pyne: Speaker, a supplementary must follow the answer that the minister has just given and the supplementary question bears no relationship whatever to the answer that the minister has just given.

Mr COMBET: Yes, dealing with health and safety is very important in relation to the manufacturing industry and other industries—including the communications industry, in fact. It is very important to deal with these issues of exposure to asbestos, and the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and I in particular, in our previous careers as union officials, had a lot to do with this particular issue, supporting the victims of asbestos, which of course leads to extremely debilitating diseases.

Mr Pyne: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is quite clear from the minister's answer that the question bore no relationship whatsoever to the original question, since the original question was about the carbon tax and this is a question apparently about asbestos.

The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. The minister will refer his answer to the original question. The minister has the call.

Mr COMBET: It is relevant to the original question, particularly the importance of health and safety in these industries and having a track record of supporting people in their jobs and in health and safety—not like those on the other side, who do not have any track record and who come here today asking questions about asbestos that are completely hypocritical. It is total hypocrisy. You on that side of the House have got no track record in supporting people.

The SPEAKER: The minister will refer to the original question.

Mr COMBET: We know perfectly well where the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was in her previous career in dealing with the victims of asbestos—

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat.