Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

Automotive Transformation Scheme Amendment Bill 2014

Ms RYAN: I am delighted to follow the member for Corangamite in the second reading debate on the Automotive Transformation Scheme Amendment Bill 2014. Obviously, I rise to oppose the bill. I had the pleasure of listening to the member for Corangamite as she demonstrated political gymnastics at their best—on the one hand celebrating the demise of the car industry, and on the other, showing her professionalism, claiming the regional rail link without even blushing. It was an extraordinary performance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x16skDvdPxk

On this side of the House we are all for jobs. Sometimes that means providing extra assistance for jobs.

Ms Henderson interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Mitchell ): The member for Corangamite has had her turn and will be quiet, please. I will not warn her again.

Ms RYAN: That is why, in 2009, Labor in government introduced this legislation. It saw the value in a scheme that encouraged investment and innovation in the Australian automotive industry—a scheme that did not provide handouts, but provided co-investment with car manufacturers to improve production and drive research and development. The industry only receives support when it invests.

The bill we are debating today seeks to cut existing funding. It seeks to cut $500 million between now and 2017, and then it seeks to end the scheme altogether. Although this seems incongruous to good sense, it is not surprising. This coalition government has form in this area. One of their first acts was to see off the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Labor's Clean Technology Investment Program, condemning other industries, besides the car industry, to the dust bin.

This is in their DNA. This is a party that proudly wants to let the market rip—as if this is a blessing on the populace. It is Tea Party economics—survival-of-the-fittest economic policies. And Australian workers are left wondering where the trickle-down might fall. This government does not believe in direct assistance or in co-investment, or support for workers. It has no plan for jobs.

But do not be fooled. This government's actions do support the wealthiest in our nation while condemning industries that provide good jobs to the dust bin. You can follow the tracks of this government believes through their priorities.

Its failure to implement measures that would have ensured multinational companies pay their fair share of tax in this country is one indication. The government's fanatic derision of, and repeal of, the mining tax is another. No, this government and its legislative program gives us a clear idea of what is and what is not important to this government. Good jobs are not important. Manufacturing is not important. The automotive industry is not important. The renewables industry is not important. This bill clearly shows that the hardworking people of my electorate of Lalor are not important either.

I will share with the House some of the things that have been going on in Lalor around this area. In the Wyndham Star Weekly, on 11 June this year, Laura Michell wrote:

More than 4000 Wyndham residents will lose their jobs in the next three years as a result of Australia’s auto industry closures, a University of Adelaide study has found.

The article went on:

The study of the Australian Workplace Innovation and Social Research Centre and National Institute of Economic and Industry Research analyses direct and flow-on job losses resulting from the closure of Toyota, Holden and Ford plants. The study predicts 200,000 job losses nationwide, with about half of those in Victoria. It finds Wyndham residents will be among the states hardest hit with the municipality likely to record the fifth highest number of job losses by employee residents. It is expected that 4,360 Wyndham residents in the auto industry will lose their jobs by 2017.

I would add: if the automotive industry survives that long. The article continues:

In a bid to reduce the impact of job losses on Wyndham, the council has joined other western suburbs councils, the state government and advocacy group, Lead West. They commissioned research on businesses that will be affected by the closures and will use the research to promote the creation of local jobs. The Wyndham council's economic development unit is meeting companies to discuss the issues they are dealing with and to identify training opportunities. The council's research found there could be flow-on losses from the auto industry closures, forcing Wyndham manufacturers to close their doors. Manufacturing accounts for 14.4 per cent of total employment in Wyndham, so any downturn in that sector will have an impact on the resident workforce.

They are not my words, but are taken from my local weekly newspaper.

It is never pleasant to pick up your local paper to see headlines that outline over 4,000 jobs will be going. This measure will have a dreadful impact across Australia, with estimates of around 200,000 job losses. The impact is broader than just the employment in the automotive industries. The impact will flow through to a variety of businesses, from the laundries that service the Toyota plant to the contractor technicians and cleaners and to the local cafe where the workers stop to get their morning coffee. The reduced money flowing through the community will impact on small business and retailers. The unemployed do not buy new white goods or furniture, they do not renovate or improve their homes and they do not eat out or take holidays. All this will impact our economy broadly.

I celebrate that our local government engaged so quickly with others to put a plan in place, to commission work that would outline the impact locally so that a response could be devised and implemented. What I am not happy about—and certainly not celebrating—is the lack of support for my area, for that local government, for the people of Lalor and for the whole of western Melbourne from the state and federal LNP governments. Yesterday's local paper, with its headline 'West left in the lurch: taskforce says region missed opportunity for support', had some interesting points to make. I quote:

Industry in the west has been overlooked for a $24.5 million fund designed to create new jobs, despite losing hundreds of manufacturing jobs in the past two years.

A local is quoted:

When Toyota exited, we thought it would only be fair if Melbourne's west had a similar job stimulating funding pool, but our worst fears have been realised as there is no appetite from this government for doing that.

There are no funds for my area despite the impact and no support for the west of Melbourne through the Innovation and Investment Fund.

The Abbott government seems to have taken great delight in running down our automotive industry. Some businesses in the industry will, however, survive despite this attitude. These ongoing companies employ thousands of workers, and we must find ways to continue to support them. This view is shared by many of my colleagues on this side of the House. People like my fellow western MPs, the members representing Western Sydney and those in the north of Adelaide share my view that supporting jobs in the local economy is vital.

Labor is committed to working with all industries to maintain and create jobs. We recognise the unemployment numbers are increasing, with youth unemployment at a 15-year high. We recognise that Victoria will be the worst affected state. That is why we oppose this measure. Contrast this with Prime Minister Abbott, who in this place on 12 February said, 'Governments do not create jobs.' Indeed, this government has no intention of even trying—no jobs plan and no support. There are a list of budget measures that support this view: cuts to apprenticeship programs, cuts to training programs, cuts to schools and the cruel cut to those under 30 in accessing Newstart.

Given this, it is difficult to understand why those opposite are not more vocal in defending jobs. People like the member for La Trobe, the member for Aston and, indeed, the member for Casey must surely receive feedback from their local constituents like I do. The University of Adelaide's study referred to in my local paper indicates that Wyndham will not be the worst affected area; indeed, the worst hit municipality will be Casey, where 6,734 residents will become unemployed. I would be very interested to hear what those members opposite say in the privacy of the caucus room or the Minister for Industry's office about unemployment in their areas. It is telling that so few government speakers have risen to speak in favour of this bill. Does that give some insight into their views?

Currently four of Australia's top 10 selling cars are manufactured locally. Australia is only one of 13 countries in the world that can manufacture a car from start to finish. All of those 13 countries provide industry support for automotive manufacturing. Contrary to the assertions of the member for Corangamite, it has not been 'money down the drain' to support a major manufacturing industry. The current support per capita in Australia to the automotive industry is $17.40. This compares with $90 per capita in Germany, $264 in Sweden and $334 for every Swede. So currently we have a modest $17.40 payment that had the potential to support 200,000 jobs—a small price to pay, especially when you factor in unemployment, retraining and job support costs that the government will potentially need to provide. Studies have also shown that the cost of welfare payments and the lost tax revenue will have a $20 billion impact on the government's budget. It is estimated that the economy will take at least 10 years to recover from the underlying hit to the GDP.

It is not just Labor that rejects this measure; industry experts also view this move as short-sighted. What Australian workers need at the moment is a plan—a plan to secure their future. In my area, the best the coalition can point to is the controversial East-West project. Somehow they believe this piece of very expensive road infrastructure will support workers in the west of Melbourne.

The support we need locally is deeper than that. We need projects that are long-term and ongoing—projects like the Bay West project—that can bring jobs during construction and then ongoing support jobs, and jobs in transport and logistics, for many years to come.

Debate interrupted.

 


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