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Monday, 24 November 2008
Page: 19


Senator MARSHALL (2:43 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Carr. Can the minister inform the Senate what role the government’s New Car Plan for a Greener Future had in Ford Australia’s decision to retain its Geelong engine plant?


Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —I thank Senator Marshall for his question. As a senator from Victoria, I know how much he appreciates the importance of the automotive industry. Ford Australia’s decision to keep its engine plant at Geelong open and to retool it to produce a new, greener engine is a direct consequence of the government’s new car plan. This decision will secure 400 jobs at Ford and 900 jobs in the components sector. That is a total of 1,300 high-quality, high-skilled, high-wage jobs for the Geelong region and beyond.

Some questioned whether the plan would generate new investment. They were wrong. The plan provides $3.4 billion for an Automotive Transformation Scheme that will drive investment in new capacity, new skills and new research and development. It provides $1.3 billion for the Green Car Innovation Fund. It provides important new support for the component sector.

There is one more thing that the plan provides, and you cannot put a dollar value on it. That is certainty. In times of crisis, certainty is a rare thing. It is priceless. This plan gives people the long-term policy framework they need to invest in the future. Ford has responded already with its decision to invest in Geelong. We have said all along that the industry would get nothing from the new car plan unless it was prepared to invest in itself. This is about partnership and mutual obligation. Ford’s decision is the kind of result you will get when a government is willing to roll up its sleeves and work with industry to create new opportunities, new capacity and new jobs. That is what this government has been doing.


Senator MARSHALL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister explain how this decision will assist in making this industry greener?


Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —This decision will give us both a greener product and a greener production process. The Geelong engine plant will be retooled to produce a new engine. It will be completely refurbished and modernised. This will increase its energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint. The new in-line six-cylinder engine that will be produced at Geelong will meet the strict Euro 4 environmental standards. It will emit half the nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons produced by the engine currently made at the plant. It will ensure that many Australians who need a family size car will have an Australian made, fuel efficient, low-emissions option to choose from. It is part of our dual strategy to get better environmental performance and better economy from existing platforms while at the same time accelerating the development of new fuels and power trades.


Senator MARSHALL —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister inform the Senate what this decision by Ford Australia will mean for the component companies?


Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —This is a huge win for the parts makers, not just in the Geelong region and not just in Victoria. Producing this engine will require inputs from around the country. The decision to keep the plant open is expected to secure 900 jobs in the components sector over and above the 400 jobs directly through the Ford plant itself. The health of the sector is critical to the health of the industry as a whole.

The government’s new car plan includes specific measures to help component companies restructure to expand their capabilities and access new markets. Of the Automotive Transformation Scheme capped funding, $1.125 billion is earmarked for the supply chain. We are determined to strengthen and revitalise the automotive components sector. This decision is a vital first step. (Time expired)