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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 1025

Mr CARLTON —My question is addressed to the Minister for Science and Minister Assisting the Treasurer on Prices; in other words, the alchemy part of his portfolio. Is the Minister aware that the price of a Holden Commodore SL sedan--

Government members interjecting-

Mr CARLTON —Honourable members opposite should listen to this; it is important to their constituents. Is the Minister aware that the price of a Holden Commodore SL sedan was listed in Modern Motor magazine in 1983 at $10,942; yet this week's edition of the same magazine lists the price of the current model at $15,869, an increase of $4,927 or 45 per cent? Is he also aware that the list price of a Ford Laser 1.3 L sedan has risen from $7,506 in 1983 to $12,212 today, an increase of $4,706 or 63 per cent? What exactly is the Minister's excuse for these outrageous increases in the prices of family motor cars during the period of office of the Hawke Government?

Mr BARRY JONES —I am very grateful for the question coming from the temporary shadow Treasurer. The honourable gentleman knows perfectly well that the impact of devaluation has had a very significant effect on the motor industry in Australia because not all components of cars are made locally. It has had a very significant impact and there is no doubt that, as far as the motor industry is concerned, there have been very significant increases in prices. A serious problem which has to be faced-one of the areas of the greatest seriousness for the Government in the last 18 months since the dollar devalued-is that Australia will be increasingly dependent, certainly in the short term, on capital equipment which we need in order to restructure industry to make it more competitive. This means that until we get that equipment in there will be a tremendous imbalance in the trade figures caused by the imports.

Mr Reith —How long is that going to be?

Mr BARRY JONES —One would think that the very encouraging trade figures that we had last month indicate that the situation is turning around. But I give honourable members this illustration: In the financial year 1985-86, the area that I always refer to as the information sector of the economy-large computers, sophisticated office equipment, scientific instrumentation, and the like-accounted for $8.5 billion. We are talking here about equipment that we do not make ourselves. We are a long way from having a manufacturing economy that is capable of being internationally competitive. No contribution was made towards the restructuring of industry to make it internationally competitive in the period when the Opposition parties were in government.

One of the great achievements of this Government is the turning around and the restructuring of industry. It is a painful process. It is very difficult, and it will not happen overnight, but by the end of the 1980s we will have an economy that is far more competitive in technologically significant areas than was the economy that we inherited from the previous Government at the beginning of 1983. Of course, there are significant anomalies and price variations. We are aware of that. We are going through a difficult time. We are going through a time of profound transition. The Opposition, instead of trying to play to the gallery all the time-it never does anything else-ought to recognise the importance of looking for the long term factor, seeking to analyse the reason that the economy is changing, and working with the Government to ensure that we succeed in areas in which we never succeeded under the previous Administration.