Speeches

Holden MPI - 19/10/17

October 19, 2017

It's my great pleasure and honour to speak on this matter of public importance on employment, proposed by the member for Wakefield. The member for Wakefield, over a number of years now, has given extraordinary voice to the shock, the dislocation, the distress and also the dignity of the community of northern Adelaide, particularly his community around Elizabeth, which is going to be so enormously impacted by the closure of the Holden factory tomorrow. Also impacted will be those supply companies that have grown up and operated for so many decades in the northern suburbs of Adelaide, also in the western suburbs of Adelaide that I represent, in the southern suburbs that are represented by the member for Kingston and in the north-eastern suburbs represented by the member for Makin. Holden really has been the outstanding icon of the South Australian economy, stretching back many, many decades. I want to be able to pay tribute to that icon and, most importantly, to the thousands and thousands of South Australians who, over the decades, have worked for Holden and who have worked for the supply companies that have supplied Holden and the other car manufacturing factories like Chrysler and Mitsubishi that have, over the decades, operated in South Australia.

Many people don't know that Holden is a 160-year-old company. It has been operating in South Australia since the middle part of the 19th century. It started as a saddlery business but took the decision in the early 20th century to shift into automotive manufacturing. It didn't build its own iconic Australian car until 1948, as the member for Wakefield has pointed out, but for decades it had the contract to build and assemble cars from American manufacturers, particularly General Motors. In 1924 it built a factory in Woodville—the suburb where I live, in the western suburbs of Adelaide—that operated until the 1980s, building GM cars and then building the Holden. Down at Old Parliament House this morning we had one of the 1952 Holdens that was built at the Woodville plant. A cluster of supply companies built up at the same time and have continued operating in the decades since in the western suburbs—some of them around the corner from my house, one still on the Woodville site, just behind the Bunnings factory, aiAutomotive, and many others as well. Before the war they also built a plant in Birkenhead, Port Adelaide, again in my electorate, employing many thousands of members of the western suburbs community.

In the 1930s Holden had signed a contract to shift their entire South Australian operation to Fishermans Bend, which would've been devastating for a South Australia that was trying to industrialise at the time. They were convinced to keep their operations in South Australia, and the rest has been history. For eight decades this has been, along with the steel blast furnace at Whyalla, one of the twin pillars of the South Australian postwar economy, around which so much research and skills development has grown. Most importantly, so many families' lives have been built around the opportunity to work at the Holden plant at Woodville, at Birkenhead and, since the fifties, out at Elizabeth in the member for Wakefield's electorate. It has been an extraordinary part not only of economy but also of our culture. We always supported the Holden car against the Ford car at Mount Panorama. It was always a big part of our pride, and tomorrow all of that ends.

Tomorrow will be a tragedy for the community in South Australia, particularly in the northern suburbs of Adelaide but also in other parts of Adelaide where those supply companies are such an important part of the manufacturing economy. The University of Adelaide says that the closure of the automotive industry will cost 24,000 jobs. In a small state like South Australia, that will have a devastating impact not just on the economy but on families. School principals in my electorate have for a couple of years now been talking about the distress that their children are evincing because they're worried about what Mum and Dad are going to do after this closure. This was an avoidable decision. As my colleagues have said, this was an act of massive economic self-harm by this government, for which the current Prime Minister also owns part-responsibility as a member of the cabinet at the time. At this time I pay tribute particularly to the work of Holden's workforce now, putting out the highest quality cars, I'm told by the member for Wakefield, of any factory GM runs across the planet. This has been an extraordinary part of South Australia's history; I wish it were part of its future.

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