I rise to oppose the motion. I do not intend to take the house through the
importance of manufacturing and the importance of vehicle manufacturing to this
state and this country — suffice to say that the manufacturing industry is
incredibly important to our economy, our exports and to maintaining a highly
skilled, developed workforce.
It is important in terms of providing jobs and job security,
and it is important to be at the cutting edge of technological breakthroughs and
to take advantage of the subsequent flow-ons from them to other industries.
Given all that, one would have thought that it would have been
a glimmer of hope to have a bipartisan approach to manufacturing in this country
and the vehicle manufacturing industry, because there are commonly held facts
that are undeniable. Unfortunately that is not the case, and the reason for that
is quite simply that the opposition has no commitment to the manufacturing
industry and in particular to the vehicle industry. This government and the
federal government are committed to vehicle manufacturing. Mr Rudd, our Prime
Minister, said around the time of the election that he did not want to wake up
in a country where we did not make things any more. He has held to that
statement. In fact he repeated those comments last Friday when the report of the
Bracks inquiry was tabled by the government.
We have not walked away from that, and we have not walked away
from manufacturing or the car industry. We have been rolling up our sleeves and
working out the best ways to assist to take manufacturing and the vehicle
manufacturing industry into the next generation; to be there ready for the
challenges; and to tackle the issues of climate change, carbon emissions and of
the emerging economies of China and India. I have not seen anything from the
opposition to show it is even thinking about positioning those industries so
that we can compete effectively. We are about making sure that manufacturing is
here to stay. We are also about making sure that we have a AAA rating and that
it is here to stay. We also want the Maritime Union of Australia to be here to
stay, and of course manufacturing needs to be here to stay.
We do not treat the manufacturing industry like some loose
football rolling around a football ground. We are a government that seizes that
ball; we seize it, we tackle the issue and we run with it.
We make sure that we have a future, not just in terms of this
generation but also future generations. The opposition has no regard for
manufacturing. As the previous government speaker in this debate has mentioned,
there have been very few comments by the opposition either in press releases, in
this house or in the Legislative Assembly when it comes to manufacturing. There
is an absolute paucity of comment.
Since being elected to this chamber I have heard some quite
aggressive comments about workers in the manufacturing industry. Workers have
been abused essentially for taking industrial action to secure their $25 million
in workers entitlements because their rogue employer, who is based in South
Africa, continually gets pulled before the Industrial Relations Commission,
makes commitments, gets back on the plane and reneges again. For all of that,
all we get from the opposition benches are statements that the employees are
conducting themselves in a shocking fashion.
At the same time, however, the opposition continues to try to
parade as some authority on the manufacturing industry, and in particular on the
vehicle manufacturing industry. I just cannot see any substance. I see
one-liners; I see press releases that are just about media grabs without
substance. The opposition demonstrates time and time again that it does not know
about the industry; it does not understand it; it is not connected to any of the
stakeholders in the industry. The opposition has no interest. All it wants is to have its
members get up and attack a particular minister, or to have a look at a piece of
paper, while we get on with the business.
We are about wanting to see the redirection of the car
industry. The green car fund is an excellent initiative, and an excellent
example of what federal and state governments can do when they work together for
the common good of this country. It is remarkable to see how hard this
government works on investing and attracting new investment in manufacturing. If
you are not connected to the stakeholders, or have not had a direct experience
in manufacturing in this state, I would argue that you probably would not know
about it. Clearly I have had that history and that experience, and I know for a
fact that Invest Victoria and Regional Development Victoria (RDV) work
tirelessly in terms of attracting investment.
Let us be clear about it, it is incredibly difficult. It is
difficult to attract new investment with new companies for new manufacturing
because, as we all know, companies have the opportunity to choose. They can
choose China over us. They can choose India over us. In fact there are many
places they can choose over Victoria, Australia. It is really tough, but it is
not impossible, and there are opportunities to seek out that investment and
secure it. RDV and Invest Victoria are continuously, across government
departments, adopting a whole-of-government approach to the ongoing future of
As I said, there has been an absolute paucity of comment or
contribution from the opposition benches in terms of ideas and commitment when
it comes to manufacturing. When Mr Davis was the shadow minister he put out
approximately two press releases — in July 2007 — again with throwaway lines,
and he had the audacity to offer gratuitous advice to Ford at the time. Again
there was no vision and nothing to offer the industry; there were just personal
Mr Dalla-Riva has asked a number of questions without notice,
one of which implied that the new engine plant at Toyota Altona was a bad idea.
He also made two 90-second statements. One was in June 2006, when he
congratulated the then federal minister for industry, Ian McFarlane, for
assisting the car industry to the tune of $7.2 million. Then as recently as this
year he criticised this government for its decision to grant the industry $35
million from the green car fund. Clearly the Liberals need to have a serious
think about their approach to manufacturing. They desperately need to at least
get some consistency, and they need at some point to get some rigour into their
approach to industry policy.
There is a good case to say that this house should condemn the
Liberal Party for its total lack of understanding of and commitment to this key
industry in Victoria that is very important to the Victorian economy. People
have the right to be angry about this issue. The absolute disregard of this
important industry just does not carry weight in any area.
Government and industry stakeholders do not get very many
opportunities to search for and seek areas of common ground to redirect the
industry. We are at that very critical point in time in Victoria’s history and
in this country’s history, but that side of the chamber does not even recognise
that fact. This is a golden opportunity to make sure that we have an ongoing,
viable manufacturing sector.
The opposition gives no indication of understanding this. It
could not even be bothered to put in a submission to the Bracks review. How poor
is that? I am on the public record as saying that the opposition knows only one
thing about the vehicle industry, and that is how to find its way to the Hyatt
for an industry dinner. I stand by that, because it is not plugged into the
industry in any way, and its continued behaviour in this incredibly important
area renders it not just irrelevant but totally irresponsible in the highest
I welcome debate on manufacturing and on the future of the
vehicle manufacturing industry in this state and in this country, but this
motion just attempts to attack a minister. We are worthy of much more, and I
call on the house to reject this motion.