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Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Page: 29

Senator XENOPHON (9:15 PM) —I want to take issue with Senator Abetz. I have great regard for Senator Abetz and the way he has conducted himself in this debate, but I want to take issue on the issue of the Australian automotive industry. I am very proud of the automotive industry in my home state and the quality of vehicles they produce. It is important that it be put on the record that in relation to this tax something like 10,000 of the 200,000 vehicles manufactured in Australia are subject to this tax, whereas something like 100,000-plus vehicles that are sold in Australia are subject to the luxury car tax. So this tax disproportionately impacts on foreign manufactured vehicles. This tax is one that clearly has a greater impact, in a proportionate sense, on those foreign vehicles. It is clear that the recent, and I think welcome, falls to the Australian dollar give Australian made vehicles an even greater competitive advantage. The future of the Australian car industry has to be, I believe, with green cars, and the amendments we have seen today—that I have supported, that the government, the Greens and Senator Fielding have supported—send a very strong signal for the future viability of Australian made cars. These are matters that need to be put on the record.

There is also, of course, the issue of the Bracks review of our automotive industries. It makes absolute sense to me that it would be expected that as a result of the Bracks review, in relation to the ACIS package of support for Australian made vehicles—I would expect, as sure as night follows day—that there will need to be amendments to that legislation. So we will have an opportunity to scrutinise in this place the nature of the support that this government gives to the Australian automotive industry and the parts industry and the many thousands of jobs that they represent in this country, particularly in my home state and in Senator Fielding’s home state of Victoria. These are things that will be dealt with, and when you consider the relatively small number of Australian made vehicles that will be covered by this tax and the level of increases—several hundred dollars—relative to the many foreign manufactured vehicles, that is why I feel comfortable with respect to this.

In relation to Senator Cameron, I accept what he told the chamber today and what he said in my private discussions with him. I hope he does not mind—and I do not think he will take issue with this: he has not received any concerns from the AMWU. John Camillo is the secretary of the AMWU in my home state. I do not think anyone could possibly accuse Mr Camillo of being a shrinking violet in any way when it comes to protecting the jobs of his members in South Australia. I have not heard from Mr Camillo, and other representatives of the AMWU have not approached me with any concerns in relation to this particular tax. It is fair to say that Mr Camillo and, I suspect, other state secretaries of the AMWU have been quite ferocious in protecting the jobs of their workers. I have regard to the points made by Senator Abetz, but I am an optimist about our car industry. I believe the Bracks review and the amendments that will be inevitable to the ACIS legislation give us an opportunity to ensure that the Australian car industry is in good stead for years to come.