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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 1467

Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (15:20): After the Acting Prime Minister's letter to General Motors of yesterday, there was a decision taken in Detroit. So the letter was received yesterday afternoon and a decision was taken in response to that letter, that reckless, cavalier correspondence from the Acting Prime Minister. While the Prime Minister is out of the country, the Acting Prime Minister manages to blow up General Motors Holden. Well, what an achievement is this dishonest and cowardly attack that has occurred on this company, replicated day after day after day by senior members of the coalition and demonstrated on the ABC last Thursday night whereby they said that they had already made a decision. Of course, their aim was to force a decision by General Motors before Christmas.

We all know the truth of this matter. As the minister, I was able to be privy to a series of negotiations with General Motors about their situation in Australia and I know the opposition—that is, the coalition—was fully briefed on the situation at General Motors and they have known for some time what the actual situation has been with General Motors, given what the company's letter of today indicates. The increase in the value of the Australian dollar has increased the costs of production in Australia by as much as 65 per cent, as they have referred to in this letter. The company had said to the Labor government, 'We need to look at the arrangements which occur around the world and we need to look at the business case in Australia,' and this government was provided with the same information when they came into office. As for the government, at the Elizabeth plant in Adelaide, Minister Macfarlane said he wanted the company to defer any decision until such time as the Productivity Commission had reported. But yesterday the Acting Prime Minister wrote a letter to General Motors and demanded an immediate answer. And of course they have now got their immediate answer.

They have got their immediate answer, and the actions in the House of Representatives yesterday—following, as I say, seven days of abuse of this company by senior members—meant that the industry insider said that the company felt 'bullied and hectored'. What a hell of a way to run a foreign investment strategy in this country, to bully and hector a major manufacturing company—probably the biggest manufacturing company in Australia; probably the most important company in Australia because it stands at the centre of ensuring the terms of our industrial R&D in this country. It is a company which has, in fact, contributed, according to its advice, in return for $1.8 billion in Commonwealth assistance, $1.4 billion in tax revenue, and it has paid $21 billion to other businesses over the past 10 years. It is a company that has made a huge contribution to this country. The situation now is we have a government which has sought, because of its ideological obsessions, to destroy this company's manufacturing capabilities in this country. We have a situation in which General Motors notes, in the statement that was issued at two o'clock today:

GM remains committed to the automotive industry in Australia and New Zealand. We recognize the need for change and understand the government’s point of view.

What is the government's point of view? First point: we take $500 million out of the industry. Second point: we attempt to establish a Productivity Commission inquiry, but demand immediate decisions. Third point: we heap abuse upon abuse upon abuse of this company's executives and this company's contribution to Australia.

What do you expect? What do you expect when you get the answer that you have asked for? You get the answer you have been demanding. You have pursued a vendetta against this company, and you have now got what you have asked for. You established a Productivity Commission inquiry—I have said for some time I was very, very concerned that what you were actually doing was establishing a coroner's inquiry, a post-mortem process. The only difference here is the coroner was actually pleased about the death. That is the situation with this government. They have been seeking this result. They have been pursuing a campaign against manufacturing in this country, particularly automotive manufacturing. They have campaigned against the international automotive industry; they have been playing chicken with this company, and we now have the result. The consequences are going to be a social and economic catastrophe for this country, and you, Minister, and your government are directly responsible.