TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — My question is to the Minister for Industry
and Trade. Will the minister update the house on how the Brumby Labor government
is taking action to ensure that Victoria remains the engine room of the
automotive industry, and in doing so will the minister outline the challenges
the industry is facing?
M. P. PAKULA (Minister for Industry and Trade) — I would like to thank Ms
Tierney for her
question. While doing so, I would also like to indicate how proud I am to serve
this government as a minister and to thank honourable members who have offered
me their good wishes and congratulations, including some members opposite —
some of whom actually meant it!
The Brumby Labor government is working closely with a range of
parties in the automotive space. We are working closely with the Rudd Labor government.
We are working closely with automotive companies. We are working closely with
component manufacturers, and we are working with unions to ensure a long-term
future for the Victorian automotive industry.
Victoria remains the engine room of Australia’s automotive
industry. It is a sector that is worth $15 billion to the state economy, and it
employs roughly 35 000 people. The government remains fully committed to it, as
we have outlined in our manufacturing statement, Building Our Industries for the
In 2008 alone, exports of vehicles and components from Victoria
totalled more than $3 billion. Of the 170 000 vehicles exported from Australia,
107 000 came from Victoria. There have been some real votes of confidence in the
automotive industry coming from the major players in the industry.
Since October 1999 Toyota has announced its $45 million Toyota
Technical Center Asia Pacific Australia and, more recently, as members would
recall, announced the construction of the hybrid Camry in Altona. GM Holden
(GMH) announced its $386 million HFV6 engine plant, its investment in
rear-wheel-drive architecture, and its new head office building worth $200
million. Ford announced its $1.8 billion investment in the development of the
Orion platform and a new light commercial vehicle and the instigation of
production of the Ford Focus in Victoria, at a cost of $300 million.
Everybody knows there has been enormous pressure on the
automotive industry from a number of sources as a result of the global financial
crisis — from the invidious economic position that the parent companies GMH and
Ford find themselves in, from declining consumer confidence and from declining
sales of motor vehicles worldwide.
Particularly for the Victorian industry there has been the rise
in fuel prices, turning consumers away from the large passenger vehicles that
have traditionally been manufactured in Victoria. Along with that there has been
a greater range of product offerings from overseas. All of those things will
continue, for the foreseeable future, to challenge sales volumes for local
manufacturers. As a consequence of all of that, as has been well reported, local
manufacturers have reduced production in line with market demand. There has been
an extended shutdown over the 2008 Christmas period, and further down days have
There is a lot of light at the end of the tunnel for the
automotive industry. Victoria continues to have a very strong skills base. We
are one of a few jurisdictions around the world that can develop a car right
from the concept stage all the way through to production.
We are taking action and working with the car companies, with
the component suppliers and with the federal government to identify strategies
to address the current challenges. Some of those strategies include the
Victorian automotive manufacturing action plan, which was released last year and
focuses on business development, investment and global market access. We have
established the $50 million industry transition fund, which will assist in the
restructuring of the component sector. We are assisting companies to increase
the scale of their operations by exporting. We are working very closely with our
federal counterparts, particularly on the $6.2 billion car plan that was
released by federal minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Kim
Carr, last year.
As a consequence of all that work in that space by both the
Victorian and the federal governments, the major vehicle producers have shown
their confidence in manufacturing in Victoria by making major announcements
about their future in Victoria — the hybrid Camry and the Ford Focus, just to
name a couple.
They are not the only challenges faced by the industry. The
other significant challenge faced by the industry is from those who have no
confidence in it, from those who want to talk it down and from those who would
rather see the Victorian government and the federal government give it up for
Early in January I read comments in the Herald Sun, as many
other members might also have read, which described the industry as being an
industry in terminal decline, which described the industry as being a dead-end
industry and which advised the Rudd government to stop young workers from
entering that industry.
Those comments did not come from the government, and they
certainly did not come from the industry. They came out of the bowels of the
Institute of Public Affairs, and they did not just come from anyone at the
Institute of Public Affairs: they came from Mr Tim Wilson, who, I am advised, is
a former adviser to the Leader of the Opposition in the other house, Ted
Baillieu, and a close confidant of Mr David Davis — —
Mr Guy interjected.
The PRESIDENT — Order! Mr Guy!
Hon. M. P. PAKULA — And maybe yours as well, Mr Guy. These are
the comments coming from the bowels of the Liberal Party — that we should give
the industry up for dead — —
Mr Guy interjected.
Hon. M. P. PAKULA — That we should consider it — —
Mr Finn — On a point of order, President, the minister is
clearly debating this point. He may be new to the job, but I think his
understanding of the standing orders should at least have him answering the
question in an appropriate way.
The PRESIDENT — Order! Mr Finn has raised the issue of
experience and knowledge of the practices, or whatever. He knows full well that
the minister is well within order in his answer; he can answer in any way, shape
or form as long as his answer is relevant to the question, which I deem it to
Hon. M. P. PAKULA — Thank you, President, and I thank Mr Finn
for the first point of order for me.
Mr Guy interjected.
The PRESIDENT — Order! That is the third time I have been
forced to mention Mr Guy. It will be the last before he exits here for 30
Hon. M. P. PAKULA — My simple point is this: the kind of
message that Mr Wilson has sent — that the industry is in terminal decline and
that workers should have no confidence in it — is the wrong message to be
sending to workers in the industry and to the consumers of Australian motor
We on this side of the house are taking action to ensure that
the Victorian automotive industry has a long-term future.
That is our aim and that is what we are working to achieve: to
ensure that 35 000 Victorian workers and their families are not hung out to dry,
like some in the opposition and some who would seek to have us give the industry
up for dead would rather see occur.