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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 1466

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services) (15:14): Senator Wong, if we are going to talk about a disgrace, the disgrace is your former government, the Labor government, and the disgrace of the mess that they left this government and the disgrace that we in this government now have to face it. Interestingly enough, we had two or three questions on the car industry and then it was dropped to go on to the other great strength of those opposite, border protection. Senator Kim Carr, can I remind you that when you were the minister one job was lost in the car industry every 19 minutes—that is, three jobs every hour that you were the minister and 72 jobs a day when you were the minister. So don't you come into this place and tell us. You are the hypocrite, Senator Carr, when you come into this place and now try to blame the coalition for a decision that was six years in the making. Don't you come into this place and tell us that story.

Yes, of course, today's announcement that Holden is closing down is a very disappointing one. Holden is an iconic Australian company. It has a very rich Australian history. This decision is disappointing not just for its workers and its suppliers but for all Australians. I remind the Senate that the government was working in a measured and methodical way to assist Holden with their significant challenges as they were adjusting to the high value of the Australian dollar and a highly competitive and fragmented market.

The government has done its very best to support Holden and the automotive industry more generally in this difficult period. The government stands by its position that the Productivity Commission was the best placed body to independently assess all the information and details and to provide a final report by 31 March next year. It was the former Labor government that created the significant sovereign risk in relation to the car industry by continually flip-flopping and chopping and changing policy settings affecting the industry. Yes, it is very disappointing news today but this government has always and will always follow due process and, unlike those opposite, keep our commitments to the people of Australia. As the Treasurer said recently, the future of the car industry is in the hands of the car industry itself.

I take you to the announcement that GM made today. I will quote it again just in case, former Minister Carr, you were not listening when Senator Abetz quoted it. So I am going to quote it to you again. It says:

We are completely dedicated to strengthening our global operations while meeting the needs of our customers … The decision to end manufacturing in Australia reflects the perfect storm of negative influences the automotive industry faces in the country, including the sustained strength of the Australian dollar, high cost of production—

I repeat that for you, 'high cost of production'—

small domestic market and arguably the most competitive and fragmented auto market in the world.

So what would those high costs of production be? Try the carbon tax, which Holden estimates is about $45 per locally made vehicle; the rates of company tax; the fringe benefits tax. Let us go back to Labor's record on cars. You have absolutely no plan whatsoever. You have no plan, you have no vision and you belted the car industry around. In the last two years, you broke $1.4 billion of your promised funding commitments as you chopped and changed, and that is on top of the carbon tax, which slugged the sector with a further $460 million bill at the worst possible time. Julia Gillard promised $34 million for Ford, which she said would create 300 jobs—another broken promise. In eight months 330 jobs were gone. (Time expired)