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Wednesday, 11 December 2013
Page: 1469

Senator FARRELL (South Australia) (15:30): I too would like to take note of answers given by Senator Abetz and others today.

Senator Abetz: Just me.

Senator FARRELL: Just Senator Abetz. Well, that is sufficient.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: And that is what the motion says, Senator Farrell.

Senator FARRELL: I would like to approach this issue from a slightly different angle than the other two speakers from our side. I would like to start by complimenting Mr Abbott on what a terrific Leader of the Opposition he was. His relentless, destructive negativity as Leader of the Opposition worked a treat. The only problem is he did not stay as the Leader of the Opposition.

Senator Abetz: Pity the people got it wrong! What arrogance!

Senator FARRELL: Senator Abetz, we have now seen in this country the consequences of electing somebody like Tony Abbott as leader of this country, as Prime Minister.

Senator Abetz: 'Mr Abbott' to you.

Senator FARRELL: Yes, Mr Abbott, the Prime Minister. We have now seen the consequences of letting this man become Prime Minister. On 7 September, Mr Abbott said to the Australian people, 'Australia is open for business.' Tell that to the thousands of Holden workers who today found out that their company is going to close in this country. Tell that to the extra thousands of suppliers who are going to lose supply contracts. This is not just about South Australia and Victoria, where of course these factories are located. Holden is an Australian icon. It is a tragic day when we hear that this company is going to close.

Yesterday it was very clear that there was an emergency on our hands and we had to do something to try to save this company. We know Minister Macfarlane was keen to do it and wanted to do it. What did the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister Truss, do? He wrote a letter to the company. Given what we know about the circumstances and what we know about the urgency of the issue, why didn't he ring Mr Devereux? He had just left the Productivity Commission hearing. Why didn't he get on to him and say, 'What do we need to do urgently to save this company?'

The government quoted Senator Kim Carr exhaustively during question time. We know from what Senator Carr has said that it was not going to take very much money to save this company—$150 million or thereabouts was going to keep the company in Australia, keep the company manufacturing cars and keep all of those people in South Australia and Victoria in jobs. Why didn't the government do it? Minister Macfarlane wanted to do it. Where was Minister Pyne? Minister Pyne comes from South Australia—

Senator McEwen: Sadly.

Senator FARRELL: Yes, very sadly. He is the only South Australian minister in the Abbott cabinet. Where was he? Why wasn't he standing up for South Australia?

We know that the workers themselves understood the severity of this problem. They made concessions. John Camillo, who is a tremendous trade union leader, ensured that the workers at the Holden factory in South Australia made some concessions. They were prepared to make concessions. Minister Macfarlane was prepared to make concessions. The opposition were prepared to back the government on this. There could have been a bipartisan position, but the government dropped the ball. It has been under their watch that that great Australian icon has announced it is closing down. I think it is a tragedy that this has occurred. It was avoidable. We could have saved this company. We could have continued to manufacture in this country. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.