Bill's Transcripts










At least, on this difficult day and with this difficult announcement, I agree with one thing the Prime Minister has said: let us be candid and let us not mince words.


Today it is not the government or Labor who has suffered an economic defeat; it is thousands of people who find that they have lost their jobs.


This is not a day—nor, I think, is it an appropriate statement—to tell people that it will all end happily and that every car worker can move into bio-med. That is not what has happened today.


My concern is that the Government, in its statement about the car industry, knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. This is a devastating announcement.


Government members interjecting—


Mr SHORTEN:  Madam Speaker, I would hope that you would show—


The SPEAKER:  Those on my right will not interject.


Government members interjecting—


Mr SHORTEN:  Certainly in the last week I have not dared a company to sack people.


Our thoughts are with the thousands of workers affected.


Government members interjecting—


The SPEAKER:  If members wish to hear the Leader of the Opposition, they will be silent.


Mr SHORTEN:  There are thousands of workers today who will go home. Their families—their kids and their husbands or wives—will say to them, 'What does this mean, Mum?' or 'What does this mean, Dad?' and 'What does this mean for your job?'


The parents will have to say to them that they are going to lose their jobs. This is the worst part of this announcement today. As much as some here might wish to yell out and make political points—


Government members interjecting—


Mr SHORTEN:  There is something about a self-fulfilling prophecy there.


Our hearts are concerned for the families who, before Christmas, found this out.


The Opposition is most upset for these families because we know that it is not the workers' fault that they have lost their jobs.


At least let there be, in this Parliament here, a truce on blaming the workforce for what has happened. These are skilled workers. It is not just direct employees at Holden, be they in South Australia—


Mrs Griggs interjecting—


Mr SHORTEN:  I have no idea why the Member for Solomon is shaking her head.


We are talking about skilled workers who have lost their jobs, Madam. We are talking about people who will go home tonight to tell their families that they have lost their jobs—and it is not the fault of the people we are talking about.


It is not just the direct employees of Holden; there are hundreds of component manufacturing businesses throughout Victoria and South Australia who make products which go into these motorcars.


Frankly, the Opposition is appalled by today's announcement.


We are appalled when people say, 'This is not a political issue, but—by the way—we will not provide half a billion dollars in funding.'


We are appalled when people say, 'This is not a political issue,' when it is clear that there have been divisions within the government on this question.


We are also appalled that a major company, which has been building motorcars in this country since after the Second World War, has effectively been goaded into giving up on this country.


Opposition members interjecting—


Mr SHORTEN:  The government says—


Government members interjecting—


Mr SHORTEN:  Madam Speaker, I know they are the government. But I would like to see this House—


The SPEAKER:  I think it is important to realise that, in this particular environment, when words like goaded are used, you can expect a response. But the Leader of the Opposition has the call—and, if we are to hear him, we want silence.


Mr SHORTEN:  Yet again—and I have been away for three days—I thank Madam Speaker for her advice. I will not use the word goaded. Encouraged to leave this country is a better way to put it.


There have been senior ministers backgrounding not against Holden but against thousands of jobs in this country.


Anyway, today some in the Government have got what they wanted.


There has been a game of high-stakes political poker played, and unfortunately the bluff was called—and the losers are thousands of Australian automotive workers and their families.


Holden said very clearly yesterday that a decision had not been made. Something has changed in the past 24 hours.


Government members interjecting—


Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER:  We will have some order. We will have some silence, please. The Leader of the Opposition is speaking on indulgence; we will hear him.


Mr SHORTEN:  Something has changed in the past 24 hours. They were told by the Federal Government of Australia, who were elected to govern for all, that there would be no more support and no more investment—and I believe that Holden were pushed.


The priority right now must be on the workers and their families.


The Prime Minister has returned.


The Prime Minister must urgently step in to deal with the mess, the chaos and the disappointment which has occurred in his absence.


Labor stands ready to support these workers in whichever way we can, but the opposition does not believe that today's announcement was an ordained conclusion.


We do not believe that the announcement today was the only inevitable outcome of recent weeks. We do not accept it was inevitable that this car company would make the decision, after decades of investment in this country, that they would close their businesses by 2017.


There were some examples used about other car companies that have gone and the steel industry. When those announcements were made, there were still car companies in this country. When the steel industry—


Government members interjecting—


The SPEAKER:  I have said that, if the Leader of the Opposition is to be heard, we need silence.


Mr SHORTEN:  It did not have to come to this, nor was it inevitable. We understand that structural change happens in the Australian economy. What we do not understand is when the Australian government decides to sabotage its own industry. We believe—


The SPEAKER:  The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I call the honourable the Prime Minister.


Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER:  We will have silence. I call the honourable the Prime Minister.


Mr Champion interjecting—


The SPEAKER:  If the member for Wakefield wishes to leave the chamber again, keep speaking.


Mr Champion:  Fair enough.


The SPEAKER:  Remove yourself under 94(a). A very slow learner.


Mr Abbott:  Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am reluctant to do this, but the statement that the Leader of the Opposition has just made about sabotage was offensive and it should be withdrawn.


The SPEAKER:  Indeed. The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw that statement.


Mr SHORTEN:  I withdraw.


What we have seen is a government who will not back up car workers, small businesses or the automotive manufacturing industry in this country.


On 11 August 2013, a coalition spokesperson, the absent Treasurer, said, 'The car industry much prefers our policy.'


Yes, we have seen that work out, haven't we? All I would say now to the government is: work together with the opposition to save our manufacturing sector.


Honourable members interjecting—


The SPEAKER:  The call is with the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr SHORTEN:  It has been said that this is a sad, bad day for the car industry. That is true. But, when it comes to the car industry, we have a sad, bad government.