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Tuesday, 24 June 1997
Page: 6147


Mr ADAMS(5.01 p.m.) —I would just like to touch on the amendments dealing with the ships bounty. I am very pleased that this has now passed, and of course we are giving it our support. The ships bounty is very important to the Incat operation in Tasmania. There are over 1,060 employees in this operation and it generates enormous economic activity for southern Tasmania. I think there are about 170 apprentices and 82 trainees presently in traineeships at that plant and those people are gaining very valuable skills and adding to the economics of that part of the state.

The interesting thing is that the management of this company has said that if they could not keep that five per cent bounty, they would certainly be laying off employees. They said that they could not compete against other manufacturers of similar ships in other parts of the world. All they wanted was to be treated basically in the same way that other governments were treating their shipbuilders, especially throughout Europe.

Of course that comes back to this government's failure in its industry policy area. It really does not have an industry policy. It failed to understand that industry policy has a connection to jobs and economic activity and that you must place industry policy very large in your thinking if you are going to affect unemployment levels and continue to generate new jobs and new activity.

I am very pleased—I think my colleague the shadow minister mentioned it—that the Incat being built in Tasmanian waters is going to replace the Spirit of Tasmania when she goes in for refitting in a few weeks time. She will cross Bass Strait for two weeks, replacing the Spirit of Tasmania. We are all hopeful that that will be a very successful two weeks and that, in the future, we will have an Incat coming across—if not one, possibly two. Those Incats are capable of crossing that strait in 4½ hours, possibly 5½ hours, as opposed to 15 or 16 hours, and that means a lot of opportunities from a Tasmanian perspective. Where the boats should go is a matter of some debate in Tasmania. The general consensus of course is that the faster we breach the strait, the better opportunities we have of getting produce and passengers to and fro.

It all comes back to that industry of shipbuilding in Tasmania, which has been very successful. There have been some other spin-offs from it. There are now other smaller companies that feed into the Incat operation and generate more activity that way. I say to the government that the industry policy position is of the utmost importance when you are looking at stretching out jobs and keeping jobs in place.

I was very disappointed with Senator Abetz, the Liberal senator from Tasmania, over the weekend. The position being run in Tasmania is that because the Senate had held up the other three amendments to this bill, dealing with the robotics, machine tool making and books bounties, that therefore was going to mean a loss of the ships bounty. That was certainly untrue. That was just making mischief, really, and giving concern to the workers at Incat that there may be something that would affect their jobs.

I would certainly commend the government for picking up Labor's initiative on this amendment. I certainly hope they do so with the other three amendments, which also—the book bounty certainly—affect regional Australia. (Time expired)