House debates

Monday, 23 October 2017

Private Members' Business


5:06 pm

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Following that five-minute comedy of errors, I rise to say that the government has finally followed a policy through to the outcome they desired: the death of the automotive industry in Australia.

While it's known that I'm a fierce blue oval man, growing up in the shadow of the Ford factory at Broady, I can't deny the vital role that Holdens have played in Australia's rich automotive history. It goes back to 1856, when Sir James Alexander Holden originally established a saddlery business that grew, through popularity and innovation, to become the exclusive supplier for General Motors Australia in 1924. In 1931, General Motors in Australia merged with Holden to become GMH. Ford and GMH dominated the fledgling automotive industry during this period. In 1948, the first car made in Australia for Australians, the 48215, or FX, arrived. From the 48215 to the VF Commodore, Holden has been Australia's motor car.

The government's final nail in the coffin for the Australian car manufacturing industry was hammered in last Friday, with the closure of the last Holden factory in Adelaide. It was a truly sad day, and to be honest I'm still in shock to think that Australia doesn't make cars anymore—words I never thought I would say. This closure is a national tragedy that didn't have to happen. It was a government choice that made this happen. We didn't have to lose such an icon, and we didn't need to kill thousands of manufacturing jobs in Australia. It's yet another short-sighted decision by a Liberal government that doesn't understand how important manufacturing jobs are in a diversified economy.

I sat in this parliament in utter disbelief when the Abbott-Turnbull Liberal government pulled out investment from the automotive industry, with blowhard Hockey goading Holden to leave Australia. He did that even though he knew that Holden making cars locally was a $33 billion boost to the Australian economy. If you think back to the EJ Holden, the slogan was 'the look of leadership'. Rest assured, that is something this government has never had.

Holden is synonymous with the Australian lifestyle. Back in the seventies we had the ads: 'football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars'. Cars such as Kingswoods, Monaros, Toranas, the original sin bin—the Sandman—and Commodores were the choices of great Australian generations. These cars became part of our identities. Holden had such a wide appeal that it became part of our pop culture. If you're a little bit older, you will remember shows like Kingswood Countryand old Ted Bullpitt, the conservative, Kingswood-loving putty factory worker and World War II veteran. Driving a Holden gave social status—unless it was a Camira or the Starfire 4 VH Commodore, of course! It was the Commodore that ruled them all—Australia's own car. It was such an icon that it became Australia's top selling car for 15 years.

You cannot paint a full picture of Holden's contribution and success without talking about the motor sport landscape. There isn't anything like the Bathurst 1000. The rivalry produced Australia's most famous muscle cars, the Bathurst specials—race cars that were driven by icons like Lowndes, Skaife, Norm Beechey and of course Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland, who gave Holden its very first Bathurst win. Of course, the biggest of them all, one of the McEwen electorate's most famous names, was Peter Brock—aka Peter Perfect, King of the Mountain. He won all his nine Bathurst championships in Holdens. His association with Holden was the stuff of legend, debuting in 1969 in a HT Monaro GTS, and going on to win the event nine times between 1972 and 1987, a feat that has not been equalled since. Peter Brock was such an icon that Holden collaborated with him, taking race inspired design, like the first HT TVC Commodore and, my favourite, the iconic VK group A blue meanie. As a petrolhead, I could talk about cars till the cows come home.

I rise to condemn the government for its short-sighted actions to cut down Australia's automotive industry. This is about the thousands of people left without jobs, the generations devoted to Holden since its early days, who worked day in and day out to put food on the table. Those generations of Australians shaped this industry, with countless stories of immigrants building a life in the country off the back of manufacturing—stories like Arrivederci Holden, the factory that fed my family, by SBS's Daniela Ritorto, should never be forgotten. To the Holden workforce, we thank you for your hard work in shaping this nation. Your contribution will be sorely missed. The end of the era didn't need to happen. It was a government choice that made it that way.


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