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Thursday, 20 August 2009
Page: 8481

Dr EMERSON (Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy, Minister Assisting the Finance Minister on Deregulation and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs) (9:54 AM) —in reply—I thank all members who have spoken on the Automotive Transformation Scheme Bill 2009 and the associated ACIS Administration Amendment Bill 2009. This is very important legislation. The Automotive Transformation Scheme will stimulate the investment and innovation needed to make the Australian automotive industry economically and environmentally sustainable. It will achieve this by increasing support for strategic investment in research and development, plant and equipment and the production of motor vehicles. The estimated $3.4 billion of assistance under the Automotive Transformation Scheme, as well as additional assistance under the Automotive Competitiveness and Investment Scheme—ACIS for short—demonstrates the government’s ongoing commitment to securing the long-term viability of this vital industry.

This legislation has been welcomed by the industry, by the tens of thousands of Australians who work in it, and by the families and communities that depend on it. It is the centrepiece of the government’s New Car Plan for a Greener Future, the most comprehensive policy ever devised for the Australian automotive industry. This $6.2 billion initiative will give the industry the certainty it needs to invest in the vehicle technologies of tomorrow.

As a number of speakers have noted, the automotive industry makes a vital contribution to Australian employment, skills and innovation. I recognise the significant interest in these two bills, especially from the members who have contributed to this debate, and I thank those members for their contributions. I would like to mention the member for Kingston, who has just spoken; the member for Calwell; the member for Wakefield; the member for Makin; the member for Deakin; and, of course, all of the coalition members who have also spoken on the bill. The automotive industry is especially significant to Victoria and South Australia, and I thank these members for supporting this critical legislation which will set the industry on the path to a sustainable future.

The Automotive Transformation Scheme, along with the extra assistance in 2010 under ACIS, will make a real difference to the workers in this industry. The scheme requires participants to demonstrate a commitment to boosting skills. It recognises that the key to a successful and innovative Australian automotive industry is a well-trained and highly skilled workforce. The scheme will support jobs as the industry comes through the global economic downturn and addresses the ongoing challenges of modernisation and renewal. The government believes that the long-term viability of the automotive industry depends on innovation. That is why the Automotive Transformation Scheme increases support for eligible investment in R&D. The Automotive Transformation Scheme’s objective is to encourage increased investment and innovation, which will deliver important economic outcomes.

Assistance under this scheme is directly linked to the industry continuing to invest and produce in Australia. It will ensure that Australia is at the cutting edge of new technologies that will allow us to produce vehicles with lower fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The scheme will operate on the basis of mutual obligation. It is not a blank cheque; it is about development capability and workforce skills. Reflecting this mutual obligation, the bill also contains a strong monitoring regime, including provision for authorised officers to obtain a monitoring warrant to check compliance and substantiate information. These provisions will protect the interests of the Commonwealth and the community. This legislation is about giving the industry the certainty it needs to continue long-term strategic investment at a time when it is under acute pressure both in Australia and overseas. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.