Senate debates

Monday, 9 December 2013

Matters of Public Importance

Automotive Industry

5:42 pm

Photo of Anne McEwenAnne McEwen (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I am very pleased to contribute to this debate about the future of the automotive industry in Australia, and I thank my colleague Senator Carr for moving the motion to give the Senate the opportunity to do so. Like my South Australian Senate colleagues in the Labor Party, I am very proud to stand up for South Australian jobs, I am proud to stand up for South Australian manufacturing jobs, I am proud to stand up for South Australian automotive workers who are worried about their jobs. And I am here to stand up for the families of those automotive workers who are rapidly approaching Christmas wondering whether or not they are going to have a job in the future.

It is very disappointing that no-one in the coalition is supporting automotive workers in the automotive industry in South Australia, and certainly not South Australian coalition senators in this place. I have yet to hear them articulate one word of support for the automotive industry. In fact, there are some in the coalition who are actively working behind the scenes to bring down the automotive industry, working to bring about its demise. They have been backgrounding journalists, as we know, about Holden's plans and undermining their own industry minister, Minister Macfarlane, who, as Senator Xenophon said, has shown some indication of at least paying attention to what is going on at Holden and the future of all of those jobs out there. It is very disappointing and galling for Holden workers to see the coalition government actively attempting to bring about the demise of the industry.

Let us not underestimate the importance of the automotive industry to South Australia and to Australia. As we know, Holden is at Elizabeth. There are 1,700 production line jobs there alone. Elizabeth, which is to the north of the city, desperately needs every job it can hold onto out there. All up, the automotive industry supports some 13,000 jobs in South Australia, and nationally some 200,000 jobs are directly and indirectly supported by the automotive industry. It is an industry that, according to independent reviews, is worth some $21.5 billion to the Australian economy. That cannot be dismissed lightly. This is something we have to hold onto.

This industry also supports skilled workers—designers, engineers, machinists, production line workers and sophisticated IT workers. These are the jobs we need in South Australia and this is an industry that trains workers in these really important jobs to work not just in the automotive industry but elsewhere. We can ill afford to stand by and let these jobs disappear.

Unlike the coalition that refuses to support the automotive industry, I am proud to say that the South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill, is actively supporting the industry in South Australia and has written to the Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, requesting him to, please, take seriously the future of the automotive industry in South Australia. In his letter to Mr Abbott in the last few days Premier Weatherill said:

Every day the federal government fails to commit assistance is another day of growing uncertainty for international investors, South Australian business, South Australian workers and South Australian families.

Premier Weatherill went on to say:

On behalf of the people of South Australia I urge you to commit the federal government to reasonable and justifiable support for the automotive industry now.

I am proud to stand behind Premier Weatherill in this campaign as well.

I also note that the secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Mr John Camillo, is standing behind his members, as he has always done. He too wrote to the Prime Minister in the last week urging the coalition government to get behind the automotive industry. Mr Camillo points out that is not unusual for developed nations to support their automotive industries and that Australia's assistance to the automotive industry is relatively light compared to, for example, the United States and Germany, which much more heavily subsidise their industries. So this is a good thing to do. It is a good thing to get behind the automotive industry.

I conclude by noting also the campaign that has been running in South Australia called More than Cars. I have seen the petitions and online campaigns. The people of South Australia, unlike their representatives in the Liberal Party in the Senate, are right behind the automotive industry. (Time expired)


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