October 23, 2017

Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide) (17:17): That contribution from the member for Calare had a level of humanity and dignity that was entirely lacking in the member for Boothby's contribution to this debate. It is extraordinary, given that the member for Boothby represents a South Australian electorate, which also has a deep tradition of car-making and a supply industry in the southern suburbs, which coalesced around the old Chrysler and then Mitsubishi factory.

I want to pay credit to the member for Wakefield for proposing this important debate in the Federation Chamber, the week after the closure of the Holden factory, when enormous economic dislocation is happening in the suburbs of Adelaide. The member for Wakefield has given extraordinary voice to that sense of loss, dislocation and distress that has been experienced in different parts of Adelaide over almost the last four years—since Joe Hockey, the then Treasurer, goaded Holden to leave. I had street-corner meetings in the northern part of my electorate, in Paralowie, over the weekend, where there are a number of automotive supply companies and where there are a number of families who worked at Holden live, as the member for Wakefield would know. I have talked to members of families who have lost jobs at Holden or who have lost jobs at companies that had traditionally supplied the work of Holden, Toyota, Ford and, before them, Mitsubishi. The level of distress and dislocation is quite difficult to appreciate from this distance.

The other thing I like about this motion is its celebration of the 160-year history of this company, particularly since it took the decision in the early part of the last century to move from saddlery into automotive manufacturing. The first period of that automotive manufacturing was essentially one of assembly, when, for a while, Holden became an assembly company for Ford and then for Chrysler. Then, in 1924, it managed to obtain the exclusive contract to assemble GM, or General Motors, cars at a Woodville plant, just around the corner from my house, where now the local Bunnings store is, because the Woodville plant of GMH closed in the 1980s.

I want to talk a bit about the 1930s, which was a fork in the road for Holden in South Australia. The Great Depression hit the South Australian economy perhaps more harshly than any other economy because the South Australian economy was then so dependent on commodities, which really took a dive after the stock market crash in 1929. The government of the time took a very deliberate decision to start to industrialise the South Australian economy. In 1931 Holden, because it was in distress at the time, as most companies were, was effectively taken over by General Motors. The amalgamated, or merged, company, GMH, continued to be run by the Holden family—Ted Holden at the time—and in the mid-1930s a contract was finally struck for GMH to move its entire operation to Fishermans Bend in Victoria. The contract was struck while the then Premier, my great-grandfather Richard Butler, a conservative, was overseas. Almost the entire automotive manufacturing industry would have shifted in one fell swoop from South Australia to Victoria were that administration not given the opportunity to negotiate with Ted Holden and put in place a range of industry policies and tax concessions that kept the industry in South Australia for the following 82 years. I'm sure it's a matter of utter coincidence that Ted Holden entered the Legislative Council a few months later, as a member of the LCL, as a part-time job to supplement his ongoing work as the CEO and chair of GMH, but, were that decision not taken in the mid-1930s, the postwar economy of South Australia would have been profoundly different. It was a decision taken only a couple of years before the same administration decided to build a blast furnace in Whyalla. Really, they were the twin pillars of South Australia's postwar economy.

So I'm not going to take lectures from the member for Boothby about the Playford legacy. The Butler and Playford legacy of our manufacturing was from a time when the Liberal Party had real vision—the vision to build not just an industrial economy in South Australia but social reforms like the development of the South Australian Housing Trust, the first public housing policy, which was deliberately designed to try to give affordable housing opportunities to workers who would be employed in the factories that came into being in that very exciting period of the South Australian economy. Those were the pillars of South Australia's economic activity and our culture for five, six, seven, eight decades, and they were lost in a profound act of self-harm by this government.