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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 1454

Automotive Industry


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:27): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to today's sad announcement by General Motors that the company intends to cease manufacturing in Australia by 2017, transitioning over the next four years. Can the minister please provide an update as to what assistance the government proposes to provide to these workers and their families?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:27): I would agree with the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate that indeed it is a sad day that GM have made their announcement not to continue with production of motor vehicles in Australia. This decision is regrettable, especially for all those people that are gainfully employed by General Motors. They will be facing a bleak Christmas; there is no doubt about that. I understand from GM that they have all the redundancy and other requirements for the workers in hand and that there will not necessarily be any extra assistance required from government in relation to FEG or matters of that nature.

One thing, of course, that we would seek to do for each one of those families is, if the Labor Party were to allow us to do so, to provide them with a reduction of $550 per annum in their household budgeting by the removal of the carbon tax.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Just wait a minute, Senator Abetz. There needs to be silence. Order on my left and on my right!

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! If you wish to debate this, I remind honourable senators the time to do so is after three o'clock.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I advise honourable senators the time to debate it is after three o'clock. Senator Abetz, continue.

Senator ABETZ: As I indicated, one thing that the government could do in concert with a vote of the Senate is to provide each and every one of the families a $550 Christmas present by removing the carbon tax. As we all know, this announcement has just been made. As a responsible government, we will be talking with the company, with the unions and with all other interested stakeholders to ensure that we can assist them in their transition from employment with GM into other employment opportunities. Job Services Australia and other facilities and organisations will clearly be made available. But as for what is actually needed, we will determine in due course. (Time expired)






Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:31): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise what regional assistance will be provided for the areas of Australia which will be hardest hit by this sad announcement, particularly those parts of South Australia and Victoria which are already suffering from high levels of unemployment?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:31): I dare say one of the stark differences between Labor and the coalition is that when confronted with an issue, as we just have been literally only minutes ago, I am not going to be making an announcement that we are going to throw bucket loads of money at the problem or whatever. We are going to sit down and consider in a purposeful, methodical manner what a reasonable considered approach is and work with the interest groups and stakeholders to ensure that we can get the best possible outcome.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Both sides need to come to order. Senator Abetz, continue.

Senator ABETZ: Whilst we can provide all sorts of government services, at the end of the day the best support we can provide to these displaced workers is a strong, sound economy and that is one which is a jobs-rich economy. That is why getting rid of the carbon tax and the mining tax are so vitally important, especially in regional Australia. I would invite those opposite to vote with us to get rid of those job-destroying taxes. (Time expired)




Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:33): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I ask the minister: is the government aware of the flow-on effects to the Australian economy and in particular to component manufacturing firms? What plans does the government have to assist workers in those firms as a result of the effect on their jobs and their security of this decision?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:33): The flow-on impact is there, regrettably, for all to see. But in relation to the automotive and manufacturing sector, can I remind those opposite again that the carbon tax has been like a body blow to the manufacturing sector right around Australia. The Australian people said so. PricewaterhouseCoopers tells us that that is the case. We would invite those opposite to actually take stock and see the consequences of what six years of Labor have done to many of our major employers. I would invite the Labor Party to join with us to help restore and reboot the Australian economy by supporting our reduction in company tax, by getting rid of the mining tax and the carbon tax, helping us to get rid of red tape and bringing the budget back into the situation it ought be in by voting for the same savings you actually promised before the election.