Senate debates

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Matters of Urgency

Australian Automotive Industry

4:22 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I find it amazing that the former industry minister Senator Kim Carr is here expressing his concerns about the motor vehicle industry. I have one simple question: who was it that brought in that luxury car tax? Who was that? That was Minister Kim Carr when he was in government. What a terrible situation if a couple work hard and, instead of buying a basic Holden Commodore, they might want to upgrade to a Holden Statesman. What a terrible thing that they worked hard and could afford a bit more luxury. You cannot have that in our nation. Put a tax on that Holden Statesman. What did that do to jobs? This is socialism at its best, and now we have got these people crying about the industry that they did so much damage to.

A simple question: who was in government when Ford Australia announced that they would be shutting down their industry in 2016? Who was the minister? Was it Minister Kim Carr from the Australian Labor Party, industry minister, beating his chest about what he is doing for the car industry? In the meantime under his watch Ford Australia shut down after decades and decades and announced they will be closing down manufacturing in Australia.

There is no denying that the Australian automotive industry is facing a number of significant challenges as it adjusts to the high value of the Australian dollar and highly competitive and fragmented markets. Let's look at the high Australian dollar. There is a continued tie with interest rates and the exchange rate: the higher the interest rate, the higher the exchange rate. Remember the previous Labor government when they were borrowing money and stimulating the economy in 2009? They did it so much that in November 2009, the Reserve Bank started raising interest rates.

Speaking of cars, who drives their car with one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake at the same time? No-one, but this lot in government were pouring money into the economy trying to stimulate it, wasting so much borrowed money while the Reserve Bank were raising interest rates to slow the economy. Of course with interest rates in many of the OECD countries down around zero, it made it very inviting for foreign investors to say, 'Let's grab a bit of this high-interest rate, this 4.75 cash rate in Australia.' Hence the upward pressure on the dollar, the exchange rate, that is the key issue which is hurting the automotive industry in Australia.

It gets worse. We talk about transparency, consultation. I wonder what consultation the previous Labor government had when they announced their $1.8 billion fringe benefits tax on the car industry. We saw immediate results. This is why the government overturned Labor's proposed changes. The new government is getting on with the job and overturning those proposed changes to the fringe benefits tax on cars. The changes were ill-conceived from day one. There was no consultation.

I wonder if then Minister Kim Carr was very proud of the fact that they were going to slam a $1.8 billion fringe benefits tax on the motor vehicle industry. And then he stands up here and says, 'The new Abbott-Truss government is not giving enough attention to the motor vehicle industry,' when he was the minister who had oversight causing the damage in the previous government to the very industry we are talking about.

The leasing industry was blindsided and almost immediately hit with job losses. We read all about it in the papers. We got all the emails.

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