Tony Abbott has been playing political stunts whilst presiding over the death of the Australian car industry, says the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten.
Responding to the announcement of Toyota’s intention to close its Australian manufacturing operations in 2017, Shorten said it was “a very sad day” for Toyota workers and their families.
News of the Toyota decision coincided with the government’s announcement of a royal commission into union corruption. Shorten said: “While Tony Abbott was playing his political stunts today, two and a half thousand workers lost their jobs.”
Shorten said it was the not the job of an Australian government to give up on Australian jobs. “Why is it that other first world countries make cars, why is it there is higher taxpayer subsidies in other countries? Let us not accept the lie that somehow Australia as a first world country can’t make things here.”
- Listen to Shorten (4m)
Transcript of doorstop interview with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
SHORTEN: Good afternoon everyone. Today is a very sad day for Toyota workers, their families, the thousands of people who work in the small businesses. It’s a very sad, sad day as well for all of Australia. While Tony Abbott was playing his political stunts today, two and a half thousand workers lost their jobs – today. The Abbott Government’s only been in for five months, and in that time we’ve seen the death of the Australian car industry. Tony Abbott’s only been in power for five months, and we’ve seen five thousand manufacturing jobs announced as gone, that is one thousand jobs a month in manufacturing lost under the Abbott Government.
The Abbott Government wants to play political stunts today, and what we’ve seen is the death of the Australian car industry. The Australian car industry has been making cars for sixty-six years in Australia. Unfortunately because we have the Abbott Government in power, we’ve seen the death of a once great Australian industry. It is a disgrace. Tony Abbott does not give a stuff about jobs in Australia. He is just busy playing political games and stunts.
REPORTER: Wasn’t this always going to happen, given that Ford and Holden had already pulled out?
SHORTEN: I do not believe that the job of an Australian government is to give up on Australian jobs. It is very clear that once Holden was goaded into leaving, once the Abbott Government, who seems to show a dislike of manufacturing jobs, and engineering, and making things in Australia, then I think the days became numbered for Toyota. But they became numbered for Toyota because we have an open competitive market and you need a critical mass to be able to supply making cars in Australia. The Abbott Government has allowed the component industry to lose its customers, it’s on the Abbott Government’s watch that the battle for the car industry has been lost. We lost Holden, we lost Toyota, and we’re gonna lose
thousands of jobs, and all the Abbott Government can do today is play political stunts.
REPORTER: Do you think Toyota may have reconsidered its decision if workers had agreed to changes to their conditions?
SHORTEN: Let’s be really straight here and you can ask Toyota this, because I asked Toyota when they notified me. Has this got anything to do with workers’ conditions? Toyota made it really clear to me, and please, for the sake of those thousands of people who have lost their jobs, please write this down. Toyota said their workers they hold in the highest of respect. Their conditions were not the reason why Toyota has closed. Let’s not doubly punish the workers, and I put the Abbott Government on notice. Having done nothing to save the car industry, don’t you dare go and blame these car workers. They are high quality, highly productive workers who produce a great product, and what has happened here is that a combination of the high Australian dollar, the size of our market, and also the collapse of Holden, and therefore the component base, and a lack of interest from the Abbott Government. The Abbott Government today was playing political stunts in the Prime Minister’s courtyard, but down in Altona two and a half thousand people had discovered that they had lost their jobs. The Abbott Government’s priority is never to fight for working people, employees’ jobs, they just fight for their own jobs.
REPORTER: We saw Ford leave under Labor and after a lot of cash given, Holden left under the Coalition, a lot of cash given. Is it not so much about giving up on jobs but giving up on sending taxpayer money where it wasn’t actually going to long term jobs?
SHORTEN: Why is it that other first world countries make cars, why is it there is higher taxpayer subsidies in other countries? Let us not accept the lie that somehow Australia as a first world country can’t make things here. What we have is we’ve got an Abbott Government who has never fought for a blue collar job in their lives, they’re not interested in standing up for them. Political stunts, then you go and see the Abbott Government. Fighting for Aussie jobs, they just don’t give a stuff.
REPORTER: Toyota may not have blamed the workers individually, they previously cited flexibility in the labour markets though, so is that not an issue?
SHORTEN: Well if you read what Toyota said, and I had the direct conversations with Toyota, this is not and should not be a case of blame the people who have lost their jobs and say it’s your fault for losing your jobs. That’s rubbish, it’s a disgrace that the Abbott Government would ever contemplate, imagine when you find out in the canteen of a factory you’ve worked in for twenty years that you’ve lost your job, then you find out that the person who is running the country can get on the television and say it’s your fault that you’ve lost your job.
There’s not heart in the Abbott Government, they’re not interested in fighting for Aussie jobs, political stunts they’ll announce today, two and a half thousand people losing their jobs, this is not the fault of the employees of Toyota. The management of Toyota say it’s not their fault, the Opposition say it’s not their fault. I just say to all those small businesses, all those auto workers who are explaining to their families tonight that their parent has lost their job, Labor’s got your back, we’ll make sure the Abbott Government does not, we’ll make sure they have a transition package. And the other thing about this is the Abbott Government should stop playing political stunts today, and start standing up for Aussie jobs.