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Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Page: 9439

Senator MUIR (Victoria) (16:37): I am pleased to be standing here to speak on the tabling of this report. As many of my colleagues before me have said, it is an important report. My colleagues have covered a lot of what could be said about this report and have done a very good job in summing up this report.

The Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party was formed to represent the views of the motoring enthusiast culture. This is a vast culture with many different aspects and is deeply entrenched in Australian history. It does not matter what your sex, race, religion or social background is, there is always somebody in just about any crowd who can relate to being an enthusiast in some way or another. Further, there are whole industries that are supported by the automotive sector and by motoring enthusiasts.

There is a perception at the moment that the whole sector could well be in trouble. As vehicle manufacturing scales down in Australia, we need to prepare ourselves to find ways to soak up the job losses—which, as Senator Xenophon said, are predicted to be up to 200,000—within the automotive sector and the flow-on industries that could well become redundant. What better option than to create more jobs in the auto sector or similar industries to utilise the skills set that many people currently working in the industry have? They are already thoroughly trained and have great experience and relevant qualifications. So it makes sense to try to utilise the skills which are already current in the automotive sector in jobs of a similar nature.

There is a lot of talk about the auto industry being dead, but that is far from the truth. Automotive manufacturing makes up 20 per cent of jobs in the auto sector. The other 80 per cent is still here and there is a lot of room for improvement. One of the recommendations that the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party suggested in our additional notes to the report is that a PR campaign be undertaken for automotive vocations to encourage careers in the automotive sector. It is not a very attractive prospective career path if your political leaders are running around preaching that the industry is dead. It is not dead; the other 80 per cent is still here and it can still grow.

I am delighted that the interim report, tabled some time back, had a strong focus on the Automotive Transformation Scheme—which has been spoken about by colleagues before me. I do believe there is a need to change the eligibility criteria, so that the scope of the scheme will not die a natural death in 2017 when automotive manufacturing ceases. Having a legislated scheme with dedicated funds available only to eligible manufacturers of components for locally built new vehicles makes no sense once manufacturing ceases. It also makes no sense to take the legislated funds from that scheme instead of using them to assist the other 80 per cent of the industry grow and diversify. Witnesses who appeared before the inquiry spoke about diversifying into new areas—for example, renewable technology. People are looking into different areas to utilise the skills they have.

The Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party generally agrees with the report of the inquiry and is very happy with many aspects of it. I really do congratulate the committee staff and everybody involved with this very important report. The Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party has, however, provided additional notes in areas where we think there could be a bit of improvement.

I agree with Senator Xenophon when he said that the Automotive Diversification Fund is heavily oversubscribed. It is not only oversubscribed but also underfunded. That is definitely an issue, and that is why I think changing the eligibility criteria for the Automotive Transformation Scheme is so important. There is about a half-a-billion underspend there which could be utilised to help industries—for example, the after-market industries or tier 2 or 3 parts manufacturers—diversify into different areas. Having said that, recommendation 7 of the report is that the 'government support the establishment of an automotive industry task force, with representatives from industry, unions and governments'. I completely agree with this. This is a brilliant idea. What better way to help the industry move forward than have the industry involved? So I strongly support that recommendation. In question time today I asked a question in relation to service data and independent repairers and having the right to choose repairers, and there was a bit of talk afterwards about competition. In my additional notes I have noted that the review of the agreement needs to be immediate—it needs to happen now.

I thank everyone who put in a submission to the committee. I will just pinpoint a couple: the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport, Tomcar Australia and Applidyne Australia. Tomcar Australia is actually manufacturing vehicles here in Australia, and Applidyne is trying to manufacture vehicles here in Australia. That is proof that there is scope for manufacturing to continue here in Australia. I thank the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers, the Motor Trades Association of Australia, the Motoring Advisory Council and Auto Services Group.

Auto Services Group actually focuses on imports—and that seems to be a dirty word in this place. But we are about to lose manufacturing, and I just mentioned competition in relation to service data, and I think this is something that could well apply a bit of pressure on the manufacturers as there will not be many Australian manufacturers after 2017. There have been a lot of scare campaigns in relation to proper policy around the importation of vehicles, whether it be under the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme or just parallel imports altogether. I will not go into great detail about it. Again, it is in my additional notes. I really do encourage the government to consider this and I would love to continue conversations. I could speak a lot about the rest of the submissions but I will not go into it.

I would like to go a little bit further to thank the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party for their support in the background and thank them for encouraging people to put submissions into the inquiry because it is very important that that happens. I have already thanked the committee staff but I will do that again because I am really bad at getting back to emails on time. They did a really good job dealing with me. I commend all the work done from everybody else in the background. This is an important report. I hope the government takes it seriously and I look forward to seeing some results.