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Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Page: 3429


Senator McGRATH (QueenslandDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (13:17): Earlier this year, I called out General Motors Holden for their unethical behaviour in blindsiding 185 Holden dealers and their families and their staff around Australia by retiring the Holden brand by press release. Over the last couple of days, news reports have emerged that General Motors was considering the decision to retire the Holden brand far sooner than they're prepared to admit. Yesterday CarAdvice, Australia's largest independent automotive publisher, wrote:

It has been claimed that emails outlining how Holden planned to notify dealers and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) about the closure—and the loss of about 600 jobs—were written on an afternoon flight from Detroit to Los Angeles in late January.

The email exchanges written on a laptop computer using in-flight wifi were visible to other passengers in nearby seats, according to a social media post seen by CarAdvice.

CarAdvice quotes the social media post:

"So the managing director of Holden, Kristian Aquilina, was sitting in front of me on the plane," the Facebook post said.

"In the most incredible lapse of information security, he composed emails and reviewed documents about the end of Holden in Australia, to be announced in February," the social media post continued.

"He wrote about how to spin things with the ACCC, the dealer network and the timing of notifying employees … right in front of my eyes. (And) writing how concerned he was about leaks."

Oh, General Motors! You are flying business class, all the while planning the destruction of Holden here in Australia.

The decision of General Motors to discontinue Holden operations in Australia is their prerogative, but their appalling conduct, their appalling misbehaviour in how they are dealing with Holden dealers, how they are dealing with the Holden family in Australia, is to be condemned, because what is becoming clearer and clearer is that General Motors did not convey such plans to Holden dealers until the last possible second of the last possible minute. In doing so, General Motors has acted irresponsibly and in a manner that is very unfair to the very ambassadors that have enabled General Motors to operate in the Australian marketplace. I'm talking about Holden dealers. This is a kick in the stomach to Holden dealers and their families. It is a kick in the stomach to the Holden family here in Australia. We're not just talking about Holden dealers; we're talking about the allied trades, the mechanics, the receptionists, the sales staff—tens of thousands of people. Shame on you, General Motors.

The Holden brand is more than just a car with four wheels. The Holden brand might now be worthless to General Motors, but to Australia it is priceless. I have written, as I have said previously in this place, to Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, asking to buy the Holden brand for a dollar—not because it is worthless but because it is priceless. I'm yet to get a response from Ms Barra. Holden is the livelihood of many Australians, particularly in rural and regional communities. I have said it before and I'll keep saying it until I'm blue in the face: be better, General Motors, because I'm going to keep on fighting for Holden dealers and the Holden family.

Equally damning is the scandal of Paradise Dam. You don't hear about Paradise Dam in the Bermuda triangle that is Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. You don't hear about it in the press gallery. You don't hear about Paradise Dam much from the Queensland Labor government because they don't want you to know and they don't want anyone to know. In my last statement to the Senate on Paradise Dam, I called on the Queensland Labor government to release the commission of inquiry's report into the dam before they started to tear it down. We have a unique situation in Queensland. We have a Labor government that are not only not building dams and not supporting the building of dams but are actually tearing down dams, such is their distaste for rural and regional Queensland and such is their lack of comprehension for the importance of water infrastructure to grow the economy of Queensland.

The Labor government did release the commission of inquiry report into Paradise Dam with 96 hours notice before they sent in the bulldozers to tear down the wall of Paradise Dam. When Queensland Labor finally did release the report, the responsible minister, Minister Lynham, said:

The Commission heard evidence about a litany of issues with the design and construction, some of which were ultimately found to be root causes of the present-day structural and stability concerns.

…   …   …

The commission found that the design of the primary spillway … was simply not wide enough.

This is a fancy way of saying what we already knew: Peter Beattie and Queensland Labor's commissioning of the Paradise Dam is the biggest infrastructure fail in Australia's history. This is a dam that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and is as useful as a chocolate teapot in Billabong Street in the middle of summer. The people of the Bundaberg-Burnett region were told they were going to get water; that is not happening. They were told that the dam wall would be reduced by five metres. That's also not happening now, because now they have been told it's going to be closer to six meters. What they aren't being told is that there is a plan from the Queensland Labor government to safely return Paradise Dam to full capacity. No-one is denying that the safety and security of the people in the Bundaberg-Burnett region should be guaranteed. But part of that safety and part of that security is ensuring that there is water security for the growing agriculture sector in the Bundaberg-Burnett region. This destruction of the Paradise Dam will be, effectively, a $2.4 billion economic hit to the region.

But you're not going to hear anything from Palaszczuk and you won't hear anything from state Labor about this, because within the DNA of Labor in Queensland is a dislike of anything to do with dams. They don't want to build dams. They don't like dams. We've got a state Labor government in Queensland who aren't building dams and who are actually tearing down the dams that do exist—such is their record. The reason for this is that they are chasing Greens preferences, because those in the Labor Party in Queensland know that the only way they can win the coming state election in 140 or so days is by getting the Greens party preferences, and they know that the Greens party is the tail that wags the dog that is the modern Queensland Labor Party. I call on the Queensland Labor Party to forget about the Greens and to stand up for Queensland, to stand up for dams, to stand up for the community and the Bundaberg-Burnett region, and to restore Paradise Dam to its full height—because the Frecklington-Mander LNP government will.

That's why the election on 31 October is so important. We can't afford another four years of Labor mishandling and mismanaging the Queensland economy. We can't afford four years of Palaszczuk hiding in her high-rise, hiding from the voters and hiding from Jackie Trad, because we all know that Jackie Trad has got the numbers in that caucus and will come back and knife Palaszczuk. We can't afford four years of Labor playing games.

That's why we need Deb Frecklington and Tim Mander, who are focused on jobs and water security. That's why we've got Deb Frecklington and Tim Mander, who are going to deliver a budget within 100 days, when state Labor in Queensland aren't going to deliver a budget within a year. So the choice is clear: vote 1 LNP.