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Tuesday, 7 December 1976

Mr GARLAND (Curtin) - I am very glad to have the opportunity to support this motion for the consolidation or rationalisation, as it has been known, of 2 segments of the defence aircraft industry in the metropolitan area of Sydney. This consolidation has been foreshadowed for many years. As a former Minister with an interest in this area, I know that this was an important part of the proposed rationalisation and increased workload schemes being considered in 1971 and 1972. The rationalisation proposals go back a good deal earlier. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who has just spoken, has for some years displayed a considerable interest in this area. I make bold to suggest that he has displayed an interest in defence, and aircraft in particular, quite apart from the needs of his constituents. Unfortunately, this rationalisation has been delayed far too long. It is many years overdue.

I must say that I believe a former Minister for Defence, the Honourable Lance Barnard, did all that he could in 1973 to hasten the rationalisation. Unfortunately, he was stopped in the Australian Labor Party Cabinet of that day. I do not say that the matter was treated by former Liberal-Country Party Governments with the high degree of urgency due to it. While welcoming the proposal and supporting all the reasons given by the Minister for Construction and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence (Mr McLeay) who moved the motion, I draw attention to these delays which have taken place and what I believe is the unfortunate downgrading in priority over many years of the defence aircraft industry. No doubt, if this country is ever in a position of requiring defence and military aircraft production capacity, there will be great complaints about this Government not spending the time and proceeding with such matters urgently. But the truth is, that in general the public is not very interested in this area either. As has been said in the report which came from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works, there is a need for some defence aircraft capacity in the metropolitan area of Sydney. It will certainly be much more efficient and, one hopes in the long term, cost saving to move machine tools from Lidcombe where no airport is located to Bankstown a distance of some miles where one is located.

Furthermore, the buildings and machinery at Lidcombe are old. All logic is in favour of the rationalisation. One can only wonder how it is that it has taken the national parliament and national governments so many years to get this process into motion. If I might be permitted, I express an element of despair and exasperation in this debate. As for the main matter referred to by the honourable member for Blaxland, the capacity at Bankstown is a problem but I do not believe it is a matter which should influence us at all in a consideration of this change because there is already an existing defence capacity at Bankstown. Everything is in favour of consolidating the machine shop which exists at Lidcombe with something which will be more worth while. Hopefully the day is not too far off when we will see an expansion and rationalisation in the wider sense of the term throughout the whole defence aircraft industry in Australia.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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