Topics: Meeting with automotive companies in US and Japan; Bob Day
Our next guest is the Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Innovation. Greg Hunt, good afternoon.
And good afternoon Tom.
Thank you for joining us all the way from Japan. Now I understand in the past week or so you've met with the heads of Ford, General Motors and Toyota.
What do they have to say about the state of Australia's car industry?
So, Ford and GM were very very strong on Australian design and engineering. Ford is keeping 1600 workers in Australia, the vast bulk of them in Victoria, 1100 of whom are in engineering and design.
GM looks as if they'll have 300 plus going forward, and so they're very focused on high quality Australian design.
The interesting thing is in this global environment with telephony, with digital connection, you can design a car in Australia for China, for India, for the US.
That's what Australian designers are currently doing and Australian designers and engineers are actually right at the top of both corporations.
The global head of design for GM, only the seventh in their history, is an Australian, and they want more Australian graduates.
They want Australians coming in and so I think that there is a very long term future for the automotive design and engineering component of the Australian car scene.
Okay, because a couple of months ago we paid a visit to the You Yangs, Ford's proving ground with a prize winner and we drove some cars around their test tracks there.
And, you know, they've got all these buildings. I mean, they test cars in temperature extremes, they drive them around different tracks.
They've still got that same track that in 1965 they did a seven day endurance test of the Ford XP Falcon. So, Ford is committed to this.
So, we're not going to be making Falcons and Territories here anymore but we'll still be designing and testing them, is that right?
Yeah, we'll be designing and testing. I've actually been out to the You Yangs plant you're talking about and it's an incredible place. And they are investing in that facility.
Similarly Holden, or GM as it’s known globally, is investing and upgrading the Lang Lang facility, which is on Western Port where they do vehicle emissions testing.
They also have their own proving ground. What came through is that Australian designers, engineers and they said you know a lot of people who start life on farms are some of the absolute best engineers that we ever get from Australia.
They just have spent their life working with engines. The really senior leadership said, you know we're for the long term in Australia on this front and because Australia is world class competitive. So that was the first thing.
The second thing that we were focused on was component manufacture and Australians being part of the global component supply chain.
At the moment Ford takes about 19 Australian firms into its supply chain, and I think the prospect is that they could well take more. And this is a very important part of the future, so we have a design and engineering role, and a component role.
Okay, so but are you saying that these component suppliers, even though Ford is no longer making the Falcon or the Territory as of last month, they'll continue to buy components locally for other overseas-made models?
Yes, let me give you an example. You have Carbon Revolution, which is a brilliant firm in Geelong.
They make carbon fibre wheels that I've picked up and held the wheels and the components that they had from Carbon Revolution when I was actually in both GM and Ford.
Ford's installing them on their absolute top of the range super sports car, the new GT. I think they're only making 500 but they're making thousands and thousands of Mustangs which also use the wheel.
The real point being, on their most exclusive car, what's the part that they've chosen? They've chosen an Australian part. Similarly, SMR which is a South Australian firm, they make new ultra-lightweight, ultra-tough specialised plastic mirrors which have a resolution as good as glass.
They're now exporting right around the world to manufacturers so, Australians when they're world class competitive have an absolutely brilliant future.
And, what really struck me was an interest in both our component manufacturers, and we struck a partnership with Ford to have an ongoing process where the Government, the manufacturers and Ford work together, and ultimately they're interested in both our parts and our people as fundamental to the global automotive industry.
I went hopeful, but I came back very confident.
Okay, just before we move onto some other issues, what about Toyota? Now Toyota currently makes the Camry variants in Altona.
Are they going to have any type of operation here apart from just the sales operation post their shutdown in manufacturing late next year?
So I've literally just come from Toyota's global head office, and from actually, one of their manufacturing plants.
So they will have a smaller R and D presence in Australia, but what we really pushed them on and have really fought for was to say look, you've been here a long time.
You need to do a better job. You need to do a much better job in giving Australian firms an opportunity to be part of your global component supply chain.
So we had a fairly honest discussion, I've got to say, and I think that they, I won't pre-empt it but I'm hopeful that they'll be responsive.
It was, you know, a pretty plain discussion that we do this well, the last thing we want to see is a closed shop, and whilst we've had extremely good discussions with Ford and GM, this one needed to be shall we say a little bit more robust, and it was.
Righto. Now, onto other issues. Senator Bob Day of Family First has formally resigned today. He has been a supporter of the Government's agenda in the senate and the federal parliament.
Can you, or do you, are you confident that his replacement will also be supportive of your policies?
Well Family First under the constitution selects their own replacement…
So I've seen a couple of names and I'm hopeful that whomever they choose will continue their broad support for the Government.
Bob Day would make his own decisions on individual issues.
But they are a party that is more naturally inclined to the combination of family values, economic values, security values, which the Coalition has.
But at the end of the day, the issue of the parliament and democracy and the constitution are more important than anything of a partisan nature so I think he's made the right decision.
I think honouring and respecting the notion of what it is to be a servant of the parliament is much important than any partisan advantage, so I respect that position.
Okay. Now, final issue.
Catherine McGregor, the former military officer who describes herself amongst other things as a friend of Tony Abbott's, has said that Malcolm Turnbull, your leader, the Prime Minister, should give Tony Abbott a job in cabinet. What do you think?
I think that I'm going to respect absolutely the right of the Prime Minister to make and form his own decisions about the cabinet, noting that the cabinet has only just been selected following an election of the Australian people so…
Okay, but it is destabilising, having a former Prime Minister just lurking around on the backbench,
is it not?
Look I can't think of a less helpful thing I could do than to provide commentary. In the words of John Howard, on this I'm adopting the habits of a Trappist monk.