Senate debates

Monday, 9 December 2013

Matters of Public Importance

Automotive Industry

5:05 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education) Share this | Hansard source

that also includes those people who work for the aftermarket auto components sector who do not get a single cent of subsidy or protection under the industry policy of the previous government, so let's base this on the true statistics.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Hawke and Keating government floating the dollar. I am amazed that I have Senator Farrell yell out that I should be protecting jobs. I am amazed that I constantly hear from members opposite that it is the role of government, indeed that it is even possible for government, to somehow deglobalise the Australian economy. Thirty years ago today, with the support of the opposition, Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Treasurer Paul Keating floated the dollar. That is a decision that I think was the right one to take for this country. That is a decision that was one of the stages that opened up our economy to the globe; that provided thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of job opportunities for my generation, which was lucky enough to be the beneficiary of a globalised Australia. I saw tens of thousands of blue-collar men and women, often from the TCF industry, who were exposed to that competition and lost their jobs. For people to say that those decisions were not important, that a globalised economy is not important, denies the sacrifice that was made by those people who saw their livelihoods disappear but who, through a number of government policies, Liberal and Labor, saw the future for their kids—of which I am one—be a lot more prosperous.

Since the 1991 recession that we had to have, brought upon us by Paul Keating's policies and interest rates that are unimaginable in today's era, we have had a period of virtually uninterrupted economic growth. We have seen three economic global downturns that Australia has avoided in the main—though not entirely; there are pockets of disadvantage in Australia, socioeconomic, regional and spread around our cities—so I do not discount any of that. But we have seen a period of growth that has avoided all the tragedy of mass unemployment, economic opportunities lost and social dislocation that we see in the closed economies of Europe and the indebted economies of North America and Europe.

This anniversary is important, as I said. And the reason Senator Carr's contribution is misleading people into believing that the government can protect their jobs and it not have a cost to other people in the economy is that it backtracks on what I know will be an aberration in the history of the Labor Party, which was a party committed to openness. Hawke and Keating were not a turning point for you; they were an aberration. What we are hearing now are throwback economic policies, misleading people that somehow you can just write a cheque big enough and that that does not have cost.

Senator Carr, the question that has never been answered is: what is your limit? When you were industry minister you made promises and the rug was pulled out from underneath you. Overnight, hundreds of millions of dollars were pulled out from promises you made to the industry. You know what is more destructive than a promise, even if it is not great policy? It is a promise that is broken, a promise that is pulled out from under their feet, like the Green Car Innovation Fund was, which provoked the heads of Ford and GM to say, 'This is bringing an element of sovereign risk to car investment in Australia.' That is what Labor policies involved: promises that not only were not delivered, that not only were misleading people into thinking that somehow protection was a future pathway for Australia, but that then had the rug pulled out from underneath them, making Australia an even more uncertain place to invest.

Nineteen months ago in this place we had then Prime Minister Gillard, Premier Jay Weatherill and the car companies say that the car industry, and Holden in particular, had been saved. It had been saved because the government had done a deal. Yet, like every promise made by the previous government, it was a deal that did not deliver because, 15 months later, apparently another deal needs to be made. So for Senator Carr, despite Holden having said for months leading up to the election that their future here was not certain, to accuse the opposition of looking for an alibi is a blatant misrepresentation of the facts—and no-one believes him because of his own record.

What we have to ask ourselves is: what is the limit of our contribution? Last week the Prime Minister made it clear there was no more money. But the important point is that all the money in the existing program is not being used. Under the existing program, you—sorry, Mr Acting Deputy President, through you—Senator Carr took some of that unused money and wrote a cheque to Ford which was meant to keep them in Australia, and 12 months later they announced they are shutting up shop in Broadmeadows and Geelong.


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