Senate debates

Monday, 9 December 2013

Matters of Public Importance

Automotive Industry

5:48 pm

Photo of Sean EdwardsSean Edwards (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

You are always concerned, but there was no action. Thank you, Senator Gallacher; I don't think so!

What about the 400 General Motors Holden workers who lost their jobs in April this year? What did we hear about that from the three Labor senators from South Australia? Nothing. They were quiet. Why was that? They were like economic rabbits in the headlights. There were 86 people laid off at Priority Engineering in early 2014 and we heard nothing. There was nothing from the member for Wakefield, Nick Champion, either. It was all swept under the carpet. While we are on the seat of Wakefield, what did we hear from the member for Wakefield, Mr Champion, when 140 people at Mondello Farms lost their jobs?

Do not lecture us on this side about what it takes to run a business. For six years you had to have the policy settings in place to ensure that General Motors Holden would not fail, but what did we see? A systematic decline in the number of cars that they sold. What were you doing? I hear Senator Carr has the answer, albeit that three months ago he had no answer at all. Fifty million dollars a year and $150 million: he has all the answers now from opposition. No answers at all is my contention. If he had any answers, he would have looked after the CFMEU, all of those mates. Look at them. I just do not understand how they can come in here. The people of Wakefield in South Australia, where the factory is centred, deserve better than what the current member gives them.

Labor were in government for six years. We saw thousands of jobs lost in the manufacturing sector and most notably in the automotive industry. You are sitting here and listening to this debate but we hear nothing about Ford. Oops, there is nothing about Ford. You are sitting here in judgement.

In 2005, in the Howard era, at Elizabeth Holden employed 5,700 people working three shifts a day. Under the watch of those over there Holden's workforce shrunk to 1,700 people working one single shift. That is 4,000 jobs gone. Labor threw $215 million at Holden at the start of 2012 and the member for Wakefield, Mr Champion, claimed that this would secure the future of Holden and its workers until 2022.

I am not sure if you, Senator Gallacher, or you, Senator Farrell, were proofreading the postal vote application letter that Mr Champion sent to voters in his electorate. There are 95,000 people in his electorate and they got a letter saying: 'I have secured support for GM Holden at Elizabeth, ensuring production until 2022.' What a cruel hoax that was in the lead-up to the election. He duped those people. He spread all those letters and, so, where is Mr Champion now after suggesting that he saved Holden until 2022?

Senator Farrell interjecting—

I can assure you, Senator Farrell—you know it exists—of the crisis that Mr Champion and the Labor government created. The people of the northern suburbs of Adelaide, and all South Australians, see that Mr Champion and Labor have taken them for a ride—a ride that leads them straight to the unemployment line. We have been voted in and charged with the responsibility of getting everything back on track.

For too long both state and federal Labor governments—

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator Farrell, that would be an overstatement in the extreme. Mr Champion has only himself and the former Labor government to blame for the dire straits Holden and the northern suburbs find themselves in. Labor were completely asleep at the wheel. Today Mr Champion stated that he was confident that Holden would stay in Australia if the government put forward the right suite of policies. It is absolutely laughable that Mr Champion can sit and talk about the 'right suite of policies'. He was sitting there for six years, dabbling around on the back bench, trying to work out which way he was going to vote in every leadership battle that was set among the Labor Party and that debacle of a government. In that time he should have been sitting back with his constituents—all those people who work for Holden and who now face an uncertain future because the company in Detroit does not know which way to go. It has probably lost faith in governments in Australia because of the last six years of Labor. Mr Champion and Labor did nothing at all to help Holden.


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