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Tuesday, 7 August 2001
Page: 29287

Mr CHARLES (2:24 PM) —My question without notice is to the Minister for Trade. Could you inform the House of the outstanding trade performance of the Australian automotive industry for the past financial year? Are you aware of any threats to the continuing automotive export success story?

Mr VAILE (Minister for Trade) —I thank the member for La Trobe for his question. Of interest to the member for La Trobe would be the fact that 40 per cent of Australia's Holden Commodores, in terms of content, were actually manufactured in the Bayswater Hallam area in the member's electorate. Obviously this industry, particularly the export component of this industry, is vitally important to him. More good news—and I am sure the House and the nation will welcome the news—is that in the financial year just concluded Australian automotive exports reached a record of $4.65 billion. It is interesting to compare that in the last years of a Labor government in 1995 the automotive exports out of Australia were only $0.94 billion, or $940 million. That is an enormous increase over the last six years, and an increase of 23 per cent in the last 12 months. Since Labor was last in office there has been a 395 per cent increase in exports of automotive products out of Australia. Fully built up vehicle exports increased 41 per cent in the last financial year. The Labor Party completely ignored the market that we have established in the Middle East.

Mr McMullan —That's a lie.

Mr VAILE —You did not export a car to the Middle East until we came to office.

Mr McMullan —Rubbish. We set it up.

Mr VAILE —No, you did not export a car to the Middle East.

Mr SPEAKER —The Manager of Opposition Business! The minister has the call. The Manager of Opposition Business knows better.

Mr VAILE —The Labor Party in government ignored this market. Over $1.2 billion worth of vehicles were exported to Saudi Arabia alone in the last 12 months. In 1995 there were no cars sold in Saudi Arabia originating from Australia. That is Labor's record in this particular area. Exports of automotive products are now ranked as the sixth largest export from Australia, ranking ahead of traditional export commodities such as wheat, wool and beef. These are smart exports. The auto sector are ahead of the Labor Party; they do not need the noodle nation that is being proposed by the Labor Party. They are ahead of the Labor Party in the technology and the intellectual property they have developed in that industry with the support of our government.

What puts this at risk—and the parliament would recognise this—is the action that is being taken by the AMWU in terms of closing down the Australian automotive manufacturing sector, which has established a fantastic record in the international marketplace for quality and consistency in supply in that marketplace. The actions of the AMWU, in terms of Tristar and what is happening right through the automotive industry, are going to give that industry a bad name internationally.

We have called upon the union and their leader, Dougie Cameron, who is absolutely haunting the Australian Labor Party in a number of different ways. Remember the debate that you had to have with Dougie down in Hobart at the biennial conference? We remember Dougie's actions in Seattle. We remember which side of this issue he stood on in Seattle, and your colleagues had to try and pull him into gear. Dougie Cameron was reported in the Australian today as saying that, after 13 years of Labor in office, he came to the realisation that the union movement should no longer be an appendage of the Labor Party. His view now is that the Labor Party should be an appendage of the union movement. We know that is a fact. So, on the back of those great export figures, it is time that the leadership of the Labor Party called on the union movement to get these industries back to work, to secure the jobs of those auto workers and to secure Australia's place in the international automotive market with those great export figures that we have produced in the last 12 months.