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Thursday, 15 September 1983
Page: 938


Mr HOLLIS(8.30) —In this my first speech in a grievance debate I raise a topic that should interest every member of this House and indeed every Australian. I refer to the need to encourage Australian industry. I do not refer necessarily to large industry in this country but to small industries which employ many Australians and which often do not have the resources to fight off foreign competition. I accept that trade between countries is often finely balanced and I do not wish to get involved at this stage in the tariff argument about whether we are unnecessarily protecting geriatric industries. Others more competent than I will no doubt conduct this debate. But I will argue to save the jobs of Australians.

On 10 May in this chamber I drew attention to the fact that my office in this building was supplied with a two-hole punch made in Shanghai, China. Not only was the punch made in China but so was the box it was packed in. This seemed to fascinate one Ian Warden who I believe sits in the Press gallery for the Canberra Times during Question Time. Mr Warden waxed lyrical about my question:

A star was born in the House of Representatives yesterday when one of the talented new Labor members who soared into the Parliament on March 5, at last got a chance to let the full radiance of his intellect dazzle the chamber.

Those are not my words but the words of this particular journalist. He went on to make a few snide and cheap comments about my question. I have never regarded trying to save Australian jobs or industry as anything to be ashamed of. He returned to the topic on 26 August when he was again reporting on a question from me to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) which he wrongly claimed was a dorothy dixer, although I do not quite know what that means. The Prime Minister, during his answer to me, momentarily lost touch with where I was sitting. Mr Warden reported from the gallery:

The member for Macarthur will always be remembered as the man who adorned one Question Time in May by complaining to Mr Speaker that the two-hole punches available from the stationery department of the House were not made from good Aussie steel but came from Shanghai, China.

Over the last two years more than 8,000 steel workers in my electorate have lost their jobs and nationally more than 15,000 jobs in the steel industry have been lost, in the main because Australian steel was not being used. I am not suggesting a two-hole punch-led economic recovery, but let us buy Australian wherever possible or appropriate. I mentioned steel workers, but supplying the steel industry are also coal miners and many other related or dependent large and small industries. The journalist from the Canberra Times and others of his profession could help instead of smart-Alick remarks trying to prove how clever they are by knocking: Why do they not use their skills and position to promote Australian-made goods? But no, it is easier to knock than to make constructive suggestions. I suggest to Mr Warden that when he is replaced by a word processor , most likely an imported one probably made from South Korean steel for an American multinational, it is to his local Federal member that he will scream loud and long.

I return to the two-hole punch saga. After asking my question in the House I went back to my office and checked my desk. I suggest that other honourable members and indeed anybody who is listening do likewise. What I found was staggering. I have already mentioned the two-hole punch made in China, and I have it here. My stapler was made in Japan; the staples in it in Singapore; the thumb tacks in England; the paper clips in Taiwan; another lot of small staples in Taiwan; the dispenser in Hong Kong; the ruler in Germany; the letter opener in Austria; and the highlighter in Germany. Even the out-tray was made in New Zealand. The scissors were made in Germany and the chair that I sit on, I found today, was made in Canada. My friend the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Chynoweth) reminds me that the milk jugs supplied in this building are also made in Taiwan. This list is by no means exhaustive. I am sure that a closer search would reveal many other examples.

I am by nature an internationalist. My philosophy is such, as indeed is my training. I believe in free trade, but only if all engage in it. I do not see why our markets should be swamped while our exporters are denied access to foreign markets and small businesses go broke. The purpose of my question on 10 May was to direct attention to the way in which even this House was being swamped with foreign goods. I said then and I repeat: This House should set an example to the rest of Australia by buying Australian first. If we do not set the example, who will? How do I reply to a deputation about imported steel when my office desk is brimming with foreign trinkets? The Minister for Science and Technology (Mr Barry Jones) over recent months has rightly been drawing attention to sunrise industries. We must be receptive to these new industries but we must not overlook the possibility of developing or expanding our traditional industries. Thumb tacks might not make national headlines, but they can keep some Australians in jobs. The manufacturing of paper clips may not employ many people but, given our current economic situation inherited from the policies of those who now sit opposite-and there are not many sitting there at the moment-every job is important. This is nowhere better shown then in my electorate. There is a paper mill in my electorate. How could I face retrenched workers there if the paper in this House, of any kind, were imported?

My speech this evening is not a reflection on this House or its purchasing officers. What happens here is repeated in many offices throughout Australia. I just want people to be more aware when they purchase goods. Whenever appropriate , they should buy Australian, especially if the goods have a steel component. My friends the honourable member for Grey (Mr O'Neil) and the honourable member for Flinders, both from steel electorates, support me in this. In my electorate and in that of my colleage the honourable member for Cunningham and Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) many people are anxiously awaiting details of the Governments special regional steel assistance program. As well as skill training no doubt to be carried out by the excellent colleges of technical and further education at Wollongong, Shellharbour and Dapto, it is important that new industries be established. The sum of $100m is to be spent in the Illawarra, Hunter and Whyalla areas on capital works projects over five years. I hope that, if any industrial complex is established in the Illawarra, part of it will be devoted to small industries-supplying office equipment, shall we say. It might not necessarily be an advanced technology application complex, but it could help provide jobs.

It is often said that Australian industry suffers because of our small domestic market, but I am sure that we could supply our own paper clips, staples, thumb tacks to other users of Australian materials and not import them, as happens so often now. I hope all Australians take more care in their purchasing. I hope those in this House responsible for ordering do likewise. In this regard I was heartened to receive a letter from Mr Speaker after my 10 May question in which he assured me that he had instructed the staff of the parliamentary departments for which he is solely or jointly administratively responsible that, where they do not already do so, they are to add to their assessment of the acquisition of stores wherever there is an Australian equivalent product and take its availability and price into account. We must always remember that by buying Australian we are saving Australian jobs. I hope that at least on that there is consensus in this House.