Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 6465

Senator ABETZ (8:37 PM) —I move the amendment standing in my name on behalf of the opposition:

(1)    Clause 27A, page 18 (lines 9 to 18), omit the clause, substitute:

27A  Automotive Transformation Scheme report

         (1)    As soon as practicable after 30 June each year, commencing 30 June 2012, the Secretary must prepare and give to the Minister a report, detailing:

              (a)    the amount of capped and uncapped assistance paid to each ATS participant under the Automotive Transformation Scheme during the 12-month period ending on 31 March in that year; and

              (b)    the progress of the Australian automotive industry towards achieving economic sustainability, environmental outcomes and workforce skills development.

         (2)    The Minister must cause a copy of the report to be laid before each House of the Parliament by 31 July that year.

The effect of the amendment is to insert a new clause 27A into the bill.

In moving this amendment can I say, with respect to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, that the insertion of the current clause 27A was not exactly as a result of the government’s thought processes in this matter. It was, along with a few other amendments, the result of the opposition going public, indicating what it believed would be ways to improve this legislation. I note that the government amended, in general terms, along the lines that we had suggested, the objects of the legislation to include in clause 3(1)(b)—the economic sustainability aspect—’to place the industry on an economically sustainable footing’. I also note that clause 27A was only inserted in the House after the opposition went public with its amendment.

The current clause 27A will not provide the sort of detail which I think the Australian people would want in relation to what is a very large sum of money by any standard or measure. We believe that it is appropriate that the amount of capped and uncapped assistance paid to each ATS participant under the scheme during the 12-month period ending on 31 March of each year and the progress of the Australian automotive industry towards achieving economic sustainability, environmental outcomes and workforce skills development be reported to this house and to the other place by 31 July each year.

As I mentioned in my second reading contribution, I think there is a danger of Australian taxpayers suffering from auto fatigue. What better way to inoculate against that than to have openness and transparency and by indicating to the people of Australia the actual value for money that is being provided and what those benefits are that flow. Sure, we always get grandiose statements from ministers—from both sides of politics, if I might say so—in relation to how investment in the auto sector is a very good investment.

This Prime Minister committed himself to evidence based policy. What we are suggesting, as an opposition, is let us see the evidence, let us see what the actual facts are and let us be able to make the determination as to whether or not this money is being well spent. With a 12-monthly review, anybody with an interest in this area will be able to make a sound determination on the basis of the information that will be provided.

As a general rule, as I understand it, any—if not all—grants provided to enterprises are usually listed and the information provided to the Australian public. That was so when the Commercial Ready program still existed, before the minister axed it. Those amounts were publicly known when you had export market development grants and when you had R&D development grants in the textile, clothing and footwear sector. They were all known. So for the car industry or the automotive sector to argue that somehow they should be treated differently undermines their position in the Australian marketplace of taxpayers, given the substantial financial benefits that they receive.

Having said that, just in case I am misquoted, I repeat what I said in my second reading contribution—that I accept that the auto sector is one of the most corrupt industries in the world. I use the word ‘corrupt’ in the sense of it not being a level playing field. Just like the sugar industry and just like the shipbuilding industry, the auto sector around the world is the beneficiary of all sorts of government interference and support. Therefore, it makes good sense that we provide similar support to ensure that we have an automotive sector and a good manufacturing sector in this country. But I believe that the money that is advanced should be accounted for, that there should be transparency and that people and analysts can then make a proper determination whether or not this is money well spent. If there are determinations made that it could be better applied, then so be it and let changes be made to the scheme.

I believe that, if a government says that it supports evidence based decision making and is willing to hand out large amounts of taxpayer largesse to an industry where a substantial proportion, if not the bulk, will be going to multinational companies, the Australian taxpayer has a right to that transparency. That is the basis on which I move the amendment on behalf of the opposition. I look forward to any arguments that might be advanced against it and will rejoin those arguments in due course.