Tony Abbott’s bizarre views on the car industry

Comment by Peter Roberts

Tony Abbott, the prime minister that oversaw the death blow to Australia’s car industry, went on a bizarre rant over the industry at an electorate debate on Thursday.

Abbott made ridiculous claims that a move to electric vehicles (EVs) would mean “no Hiluxs … no Taragos, no SUVS, no utes”.

Toyota has already said an electric Hilux is on the way and here are numerous other companies such as Tesla planning the same – so we will still have utility vehicles.

Then he appeared to suggest Australia should get into car-making.

Abbott said: “We should create our own car industry.

“If, plainly, there is something we do need, and the world can’t provide us, we should create it for ourselves.”

It was not clear whether the former PM was suggesting Australia should build internal combustion (IC) engine vehicles because IC utilities would no longer be available, or if he was suggesting we build EVs.

A little history might help explain why Abbott’s comments so rankle.

It was his treasurer, Joe Hockey who in 2013 challenged Holden to leave Australia, saying: “Either you are here, or you are not.”

Holden was asking the government what assistance would be available after 2016 when the then car industry plan expired, and Hockey was refusing to give any information that might help with the company’s forward planning.

It is true that the previous Labour government had already hammered a nail in the industry’s coffin when it failed to react to a 25 per cent cut in the value of the Japanese Yen.

Australia was entitled to take retaliatory action against Japan under world trade rules, and Brazil did so.

Labor took no action, rendering manufacturing the small Cruise in Adelaide uneconomic as it was swamped by lower-priced and higher specification Japanese cars, especially the Mazda3.

It was this that caused Holden to seek information on the future of the car plan, and which sparked Hockey’s ultimatum which saw GM withdraw from Australia followed by Toyota.

While neither government comes out of this well, it was Abbott and Hockey’s pig headedness, and obvious disdain for the car industry that precipitated what was a great loss to Australian manufacturing.

Perhaps the last word should go to voters in his own electorate who responded to Abbott’s comment: “Do we want experts to tell us what kind of cars to drive?”

“Yes! Yes!” chanted the crowd.

Perhaps the voters of Warringah will pass judgement on our loss of the car industry on 18 May.

Picture: Holden FX

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