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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4360

Senator IAN MACDONALD (4:06 PM) —No, I was not. But, yes, I do wish to speak. As a senator in this chamber I would like to exercise my right to speak on any bill.

Senator Sherry —Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Is this appropriate? The normal courtesies of the chamber and the way in which we operate are that we are informed in advance as to who is going to speak on a bill. That has not happened in this case. Senator Macdonald, I would accept, has a right to speak on a bill, but the courtesy and the way the chamber operates in practice is that people are notified.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Trood)—Senator Sherry, there is no point of order. As you point out, any senator has a right to speak when recognised by the chair. I am recognising Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I was not listed to speak. I did not intend to, but I was swayed by the eloquence of the previous speaker, Senator Fifield, on this. I thought I should take just a couple of minutes of the Senate’s time to, first of all, support what Senator Fifield said about Senator Abetz. A more assiduous, honest and competent representative in this chamber you would not find. Everything Senator Fifield said about that I agree with. I also support what Senator Fifield said about the actual bill before us, the Car Dealership Financing Guarantee Appropriation Bill 2009.

I just wanted to raise in relation to this bill a matter of particular interest to an area of Queensland where I spend some time, and that is up in the north and out in the west. I heard on Radio National this morning an interview between James Carleton and a person called Jane Colvin, who is from the Holden dealership in Longreach. I will read parts of the interview and will not say much more. I will then conclude my contribution on this bill. Ms Colvin was asked by the interviewer about what assistance the Holden dealership in Longreach got in relation to supporting finance. Jane Colvin said:

We rang our local federal member and he did email us back with the initial press release on 5 December. We then emailed him—I think it was on 7 December and again on the 15th—asking him what to do, how to go about chasing it up—

that is, getting some support for their floor plan. She went on:

We also had our local bank manager trying to chase it up—just how to go about getting the assistance that they were all talking about. And bear in mind that this whole thing is not about any of us getting money for free; it’s simply about the government guaranteeing funds so that the companies can lend it back to us. We’re not going to run off with the money. It’s not free money; it’s simply a guarantee of a loan. We never received anything back from the politicians after that, basically. We contacted others as well as our local member, but we really did not get any information.

James Carleton said some things and then he said:

You’re in the central west—that would be Flynn, a marginal Labor electorate in central western Queensland. I would have thought that your local MP would have been onto this very quickly indeed, given the state of his political contest in that electorate.

Ms Colvin answered:

Well, we basically thought so too. We did actually contact some of our senators and so forth … they did raise it with various people for us, but as far as getting any information—which probably needed to come from Chris Trevor’s office—it was just a blank.

Then there was another question and Jane Colvin finished by saying:

We actually are waiting to find out who is being supported by OzCar. This program—

that is, the Radio National program—

has actually given me more information than I have been able to achieve through my politicians and so forth. So, yes, we will be getting onto that.

Here is a motor dealership in Longreach, in central western Queensland, desperately trying to get information about this from the local Labor member, and they do not even get a return phone call. They tried a couple of times, emailed him, and they could not get any response. Compare that with John Grant Motors. Not only did John Grant get a call back from his local member, I assume, but he got a call from the Treasurer. The Treasurer of our nation actually sent emails to him, got the secretary of the Treasury to be involved and got people to talk to Ford Credit about this issue.

There seems to be one rule for people who happen to know the Prime Minister or the Treasurer and another rule for those motor dealers in Longreach in central western Queensland who are desperately trying to find out from their Labor member what this is all about and cannot even get a return phone call.

I thought I read somewhere that Mr Swan said that the guy in Mr Rudd’s electorate was just treated as any normal constituent would be. Well, if he was treated the same way as this dealer in Longreach was, he would not have got a phone call from anyone, he would not have been given any information and he certainly would not have had the highest officers of our land approaching Ford Credit about him. He would have been ignored, as were these dealers in Longreach in central western Queensland.

I think this highlights the issue Senator Fifield was talking about in just how this issue has been dealt with by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. I do not want to take the time of the Senate any longer. I appreciate I have another 15 minutes, but I am conscious that there are other bills to deal with, so I will not address other issues which I think have been well covered by Senator Fifield. In that respect, I support his remarks.