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Wednesday, 12 October 1983
Page: 1667


Mr HAWKER(5.41) —I also wish to speak briefly on the Bounty (Tractor Cabs) Bill. As my colleague the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) has stated , the only company in Australia which is presently manufacturing tractor cabs for other tractor manufacturers is A. F. Gason Pty Ltd located at Ararat in Victoria, which happens to be in the electorate of Wannon. Consequently, I draw to the attention of the House some facts about the present problem facing this industry. Firstly, I point out that this company was started by the father of the present General Manager and has built an enviable reputation as a manufacturer of quality tractor cabs backed up by excellent after sales service. Indeed, it is an example of a decentralised industry that we can be proud of. In more recent years the firm has expanded into the manufacture and assembly of agricultural tillage equipment. However, until last year the manufacturing of tractor cabs was the main part of the business employing two-thirds of the work force. In July 1982 the company employed 240 people. Unfortunately, the drought took its toll, but that is only part of the story. The problem has now been compounded, as I will explain. To put the size of the decline in the market for tractor cabs into perspective, I will give an example. If we look at tractors in the 65-70 kilowatt range, in 1981 the market took 2,500 cabs. Of these, 650 were imported. In 1984 the company estimated that its demand for cabs for tractors in this range will have dropped to only 100. The only manufacturer of tractors in Australia, as has been mentioned, is Chamberlain John Deere Pty Ltd, which uses at the most 400 of its own cabs on its Chamberlain tractors. John Deere tractors use imported cabs from Germany. In other words the market for Australian made cabs will be down to one-quarter of what it was two years ago.

Let me turn to the real problem. This involves those tractor importers who used to fit a Gason cab to their imported tractors but who have now decided to fit cabs made overseas. The reason given for this decision to import is not-I repeat not-dissatisfaction with the Australian made product. In fact, Gason's have not even been given a chance to quote for these overseas manufacturers. In each case a decision has been made overseas to use overseas cabs which, in many cases, the manufacturer admits are inferior in quality to the Australian made cabs. No one can accuse Gason's of not trying. In the past year the company has contacted the five companies to which it was supplying cabs. All five companies-namely, Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd, J. I. Case (Aust.) Pty Ltd, International Harvester Australia Ltd, Deutz Australia Pty Ltd and Massey-Ferguson (Aust.) Ltd-have decided to stop using Australian cabs on their tractors. As I have said, there is no question about the quality of the Gason cab; nor is the price given as a reason to stop using Australian cabs. The decision was made overseas to prop up overseas factories. The combined total of cabs that these five companies would need for their tractors amounts to over 1,600 per year. This represents a loss in turnover of over $5m-$5m to the Australian industry.

While I welcome the Government's initiative to bring in the 15 per cent bounty to assist this industry, I have to express grave reservations about how effective this assistance will be. I somehow suspect that only very little of the $750,000 put aside will be used. In other words, despite this assistance, the manufacturer has assured me that he will have the unpleasant prospect of having to lay off probably another 70 of his staff. This would mean that the number of people employed at Gason's in making cabs will shrink from 240 in July 1982 to just 25 by 1984. However, this loss of over 200 jobs is only part of the story. It is estimated that a further 800 jobs will be lost throughout Australia . While it is true that an Industries Assistance Commission inquiry is commencing in November to look at this problem, by the time the results are known it will probably be too late to save this industry-a truly Australian industry, a decentralised industry, an industry developed by the enterprise by Australians for the benefit of Australians and an industry supporting Australia' s greatest industry, agriculture.


Mr McVeigh —It builds good cabs, too.


Mr HAWKER —My word, it certainly does. Accordingly, I urge the Government to look again at this problem if it is serious about trying to save this industry. Furthermore, I urge the Government to look at the problem quickly if it is to save several hundred jobs.