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Wednesday, 20 October 1999
Page: 11980

Mr BARRESI —My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. Will the minister inform the House of the recent developments in Australia's export performance for cars and components?

Mr VAILE (Trade) —I thank the member for Deakin for his question. Of course, everybody in the House recognises the great job that the member for Deakin does as an advocate for Australia's automotive industry. The member for Deakin has been an active participant in the processes of reform that this government has implemented over the past few years, to the great benefit of Australia's automotive industry. I would like to inform the House, in response to the member's question, that Australia's automotive exports increased to a record $2.77 billion in 1998-99, a nine per cent increase on the previous year. This is in spite of the economic recession that we experienced in the region of South-East Asia, and it is during a period when Australia's exporters have shown that they are quite entrepreneurial in their activities in finding new markets.

Those new markets have yielded some unbelievable statistics as far as the automotive industry is concerned. Those new markets, particularly in the Middle East and South America that had not been opened up prior to this, have been opened up in recent years. The Middle East market now accounts for about $560 million worth of Australian automotive exports, especially Toyota Camrys and Holden Commodores. The statistics in a couple of countries in the Middle East are quite compelling. Exports in the past 12 months have seen a 339 per cent increase to Saudi Arabia and a 480 per cent increase to Kuwait.

Mr Bevis —Off what sort of base?

Mr VAILE —Those statistics pale into insignificance when you see the increase in South America. In South America, where Holden has commenced shipments of cars to Argentina, we have seen a 2,500 per cent increase in the marketplace. There was an interjection, `Off what sort of base?' Well, the base was fairly low, and we inherited that base from the Australian Labor Party. We have introduced a policy of pragmatic tariff reform that has given consistency and certainty to Australia's automotive industry and has encouraged that automotive industry to invest in what it is doing and to invest in that export effort. It is producing these sorts of export figures in an automotive industry that is being increasingly recognised around the world for its ability and for the R&D that is taking place in that export industry.

Mr Cox interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Kingston clearly does not want to represent the car workers in this place, and so for the next hour I will accommodate him. He will excuse himself from the House under standing order 304A.

Mr VAILE —I wanted to inform the House that just recently the Prime Minister's special automotive envoy, Mr Ian Grigg, visited the US and, while there, had a meeting with Mr Jac Nasser, the chief executive of Ford. Mr Nasser has offered to host an exhibition to promote Australian auto technology in the Ford Technology Centre in the US. I understand that the automotive industry will take that up, and we will be looking at facilitating that from a government perspective. These export gains flow from our government's efforts in putting in place a market access and development strategy that has been underpinned with funding of $20 million over four years.

More importantly, these export efforts have been underpinned by our government's pragmatic approach to tariff reform and our government's sound economic management of the economy, which has provided the industry with a sound economic base in the domestic circumstance from which to launch into the export marketplace. We have now announced and are going to implement taxation reform across Australia that will greatly benefit the export industries, including Australia's automotive exports. As the Treasurer has announced today, we will also be introducing legislation into the parliament later this week to improve the corporate taxation system and the capital gains tax system in Australia. With the support of the Labor Party, that will further underpin the domestic economic circumstance of Australian manufacturers so they can challenge the rest of the world.