Green Car Transformation Scheme

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 15:22 :38 ): I rise today to talk about green jobs and, indeed, to ask a question which I would have asked the Minister for Automotive Transformation had I had the opportunity in question time today. As we well know, the Holden plant is due to close in 2017 and this month another 270 workers are slated to go from the Elizabeth plant as it scales back production, not only because of the planned closure but because of lower car sales.

The dominoes are falling, the knock-on effects in the supply chain are having a massive toll, yet the coordinator for the Automotive Transformation Taskforce, Greg Combet, stated on ABC 891 a few weeks ago, when asked about the prospects of a green car being developed in Australia, that the South Australian government was certainly not about to start electric vehicle manufacturing as a replacement for Holden's demise in northern Adelaide. He also stated that previous efforts had failed to show it was a viable and even a prototype program had been abandoned.

I guess that begs the question: why are we not investigating this option and why have those details not been provided more publicly if they have been ruled out? The Greens certainly believe that we should be refocusing industry assistance, and creating and sustaining jobs within the automotive industry and that that should be done with the green car transformation scheme.

We have a crisis in the car industry, as we well know, and successive federal governments have poured money into the car industry but have failed to secure a sustainable future for auto manufacturing and jobs. The Australian auto industry, as we know, has been thrown into crisis by the decision of the big three—Ford, Holden and Toyota—to end major manufacturing by 2016-17. The crisis has been a long time in the making and successive governments have failed to lead a transformation of the industry.

I must acknowledge, however, that the Abbott government has accelerated the crisis with its plan to make over $900 million in cuts to the automotive transformation scheme and with no real plan to support transition in this industry. Workers in the car and component industries are basically driving towards a cliff in 2016. The impacts in South Australia we know will be devastating and yet here we are missing big opportunities to transform our economy, to embrace future technologies, and to transform this industry to refocus on green cars.

The Greens believe we should be going electric. We believe, in fact, previous governments of both colours should have been ensuring that we were looking to the future far before this in terms of securing this industry into our future. Estimates of employment in the Australian auto industry are as high as 45,000 jobs directly and over 100,000 workers indirectly employed and many of these jobs will disappear without a shift in policy, yet global sales in electric vehicles and hybrids are expected to exceed half a trillion dollars by 2025.

With some notable exceptions, Australia has largely missed the opportunity to be part of this burgeoning industry, but with proper support some workers in the industry could make the shift into a growing components sector that is orientated towards the global supply chain of electric vehicles. The government's existing transition assistance to workers and industry allocated by state and commonwealth governments is inadequate and the Greens certainly call for that transition assistance to be increased. Ultimately, the best way for these workers is to ensure that we have a sustainable industry that can grow into the future.

I must say that already some Australian-based component producers are joining the world's electric car revolution. In 2012, after receiving government support from existing green and clean energy, Nissan Casting Australia, based in Dandenong South, secured ongoing contracts to produce several complex powertrain castings for Nissan's all-electric Leaf. Now that company is continuing to grow and has a secure future. Australian car parts maker Futuris has won a major contract to supply seats for the next generation Tesla battery-powered car due to go on sale in Australia. Tesla is taking the motoring world by storm.

Engineering for this program is being done in Port Melbourne and comes on the back of previous contracts with Tesla. Companies like Futuris and Nissan Casting would get ongoing support had the greens car transformation scheme been embraced. We believe that we need to act now instead of bleeding jobs from our state. A revitalised electric car industry can create those sustainable jobs for South Australia and, of course, for Victoria. The time to embrace the electric car revolution is now.

Stay Connected

Sign Up to news and updates from Tammy.