Thursday, 19 October 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator Cash. Tomorrow, after almost 70 years, the last car made in Australia will roll off the Holden factory floor in Elizabeth. On Tuesday, the minister said it was 'good news' that workers were having to find new work or retire. Exactly how many Australian workers will be forced to find a new job or retire as a result of the closure of the auto manufacturing sector in Australia?
I thank Senator Wong for her question. I disagree, however, in relation to the premise of Senator Wong's question and what she was implying. It will be a very sad day tomorrow—I don't think anybody in this place would deny that—in that we will see the closure of Holden. Seventy years ago the first Holden rolled off the manufacturing line, and I think that, if we went around this chamber now and said, 'Do you remember the car your mum or your dad or your family had when you were growing up?' many of us would say, 'It was a Holden.' My family—we had a Commodore. But, in relation to the closure of Holden, Senator Wong would be aware that, unlike the former Labor government—under which, as I pointed out yesterday, Senator Carr almost made the car industry car-less, though he doesn't like to admit that—this government has been working with the manufacturers; this government has been working with the employees and the employers—
On direct relevance, Mr President; I asked this question: exactly how many Australian workers will be forced to find a new job or retire as a result of the closure of auto manufacturing in Australia?
Senator Wong, you are right: there will be some workers who will need to find a job tomorrow, but, in relation to those workers, Holden has already stated that 75 per cent of its workforce—because it has been working with its workforce since it made its decision to leave our shores—have either gone into alternative employment or have retired; a further 10 per cent—
Thank you, Senator Wong. The minister has moved to answer your question along the lines of the quantum. The minister is giving us some quantum by way of percentage in relation to some of the workers, and I think it's fair to listen to the minister, as she may get to the figure that you've asked for.
In relation to workers, Senator Carr would be well aware that, under the former Labor government, employment was down by 30 per cent in the car-manufacturing industry. The government acknowledge that there will be workers tomorrow that do not have jobs, and that is why we have consistently invested hundreds of millions of dollars in ensuring that workers are able to properly transition into alternative employment, should they want that, and that is why Holden has been able to say that 75 per cent— (Time expired)
It is extraordinary that this minister does not know how many workers are losing their jobs. Can the minister confirm that the end of automotive manufacturing in Australia will leave a $29 billion hole in our economy? Is this the 'good news' the minister was 'so excited' to share on Tuesday?
No, Senator Wong, I won't confirm that, but, in particular, again, I disagree that I was in any way excited. As I said, it is very disappointing that Holden will close tomorrow. What we are very pleased about, though, is that the government have been able to work with the employers and the employees to ensure that they have the necessary skills they need to transition.
But, if we do want to talk about jobs, and jobs for those who tomorrow will be out of work—and, as I said, we acknowledge that—the good news is, today, that we have seen approximately 20,000 jobs created last month. This government is ensuring that it puts in place the right policies so that the economy is able to prosper and grow. Senator Wong, in the last 12 months of this government it has actually outstripped job creation compared to the former Labor government by in excess of four jobs to one. (Time expired)
Australian workers, auto workers, and their families know that this Liberal government attempted to cut co-investment in auto manufacturing by $900 million, goaded Holden to leave and forced thousands of Australians to find new work or retire. Does the minister really think that telling people to 'look to the future' will stop workers and their families remembering this government's past?
Again, I disagree with what Senator Wong has said and certainly with the statement that this government 'goaded' Holden to leave Australia. Senator Wong will be aware that, in 2013, when Senator Carr was the industry minister, automotive employment in Australia was down one-third. Senator Carr, it was down one-third when you were in government as the relevant minister from when Labor came to office in 2007. When you look at motor vehicle production under Senator Kim Carr, it was down nearly 40 per cent—2007 to 2013. It is a reality that, despite the billions and billions of dollars that successive governments invested into car manufacturing in Australia, the car companies made a decision based on— (Time expired)