Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (10:39): I move:
That this House:
(1) recognises the long-term business investment General Motors has made in Australia over 72 years and the impact its decision to withdraw from the Australian market will have on more than 200 Holden dealerships across Australia;
(2) asks that as General Motors terminates Holden sales in Australia that it demonstrates the respect the Holden brand deserves;
(3) acknowledges General Motors has been the beneficiary of more than $2 billion of Australian taxpayers subsidies;
(4) recognises the potential job impact on Holden dealerships who employ around 9,000 people, including sales people, service technicians, finance and insurance professionals and back office functions and calls on General Motors to ensure that adequate compensation is offered to Holden dealers around the country who have invested significant capital in showroom facilities, service and repair equipment, stock and parts and ensure also that dealerships have assistance for redundancy payments;
(5) notes that when General Motors ceased vehicle and engine production in Australia in 2017, the company committed to retaining 1000 direct staff plus 6000 people across the 200 strong national dealer network; and
(6) further recognises there are 1.6 million Holdens currently on Australia’s roads and customers deserve to have confidence they will have ongoing support from General Motors in servicing and spare parts for the future.
The departure of General Motors-Holden from Australia is a very marked point on the calendar. I acknowledge that times change and businesses adapt and come and go, and they have a right to do so. They have a right to make decisions on their owner’s behalf. But, in doing so, they need to act in a fair way. Sadly, General Motors are not.
In 2017, when they closed their engine plant, Holden assured dealerships Australia-wide that they were here for the long haul: ‘Plenty of models to rebrand, and great value in the Holden name. Have faith.’ Dealers took that at face value; they were right at the start of a new five-year franchise agreement. Then General Motors changed its mind, and, in February, announced it was totally withdrawing from right-hand-drive vehicles worldwide. This left our dealers in Australia high and dry. Fancy showrooms are demanded by Holden, signage is demanded by Holden and workshops with high-technology equipment in them are demanded by Holden—all to service Holden vehicles, but for these dealerships there will be no Holdens to sell.
There are six dealerships in Grey, and all are affected. I’ve spoken to a number of others as well, including single franchise dealers. They have an enormous cloud over their future, particularly the single franchise dealers, through no fault of their own. They are victims of a decision made in Detroit.
Holden were offering $1,500 a car on predicted sales over the next 2½ years to the end of the five-year franchising agreement, based on the sales of the previous 12 months. This is manifestly inadequate. The industry engaged KPMG to evaluate a figure, and they recommended $6,500 a vehicle. I ceded ground to GM in the beginning, saying they needed to make decisions on what was best for the company. But in Australia we believe in a fair go, and their proposal does not represent that.
Dealers have a lifetime of investment, based on the belief that this brand was here for the long haul. It is based on exactly what the company told them—guaranteed them, even. Many on my patch have made significant investments, millions of dollars, in upgrading their showrooms in the last 10 years, and they should be properly compensated for the loss in value. Flash showrooms are one thing, but they are of little value if you have nothing to put in them. One dealer on my patch, Rosewarne’s in Kadina, inform me they’ve been Holden dealers since 1948. They are the longest-standing family owned and operated Holden dealership in Australia, spanning five generations. There is no special treatment for Rosewarne’s, not even a gold watch—not much for loyalty.
There were 9,000 people employed by Holden throughout the network when they closed their manufacturing facilities. They committed at that time, just three years ago, to retaining 1,000 direct staff, plus 6,000 across the network. Things have changed, I grant you that. But they should be assisting their dealers to deal with that change—to deal with the redundancy payments that they will ultimately be facing. As recently as January, Holden were assuring their dealers that they were here for the long haul. Not only that; they were telling the public that they were here for the long haul and that they had a range of new and exciting vehicles to bring here that they would rebadge under the Holden name. All of that is not happening.
Other issues remain. General Motors want the dealerships to continue servicing their cars for the next 10 years, but they are playing hardball here as well. There is a dispute over warranty work. In the past, the company have come to the party because they have wanted these dealerships to keep selling Holden cars. But we know that they are likely to take a tougher line on those things now. There are other issues; they’re actually saying to the dealerships, ‘Maybe you won’t get the service agreements for the long term’—certainly nothing for loyalty there.
General Motors-Holden have soaked up hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds over the years, through subsidies while they were manufacturing in Australia. The company has a market capitalisation of more than US$40 billion. This company is worth more than US$40 billion, and they are penny pinching on their exit from Australia. Maybe they will never return to the Australian market, but my experience tells me this: even when you plan not to come back, you should not slam the door on the way out. Treating dealerships in this way is simply not Australian. (Time expired)
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Zimmerman ): Is the motion seconded?
A government member: I second the motion and I reserve my right to speak.