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Tuesday, 21 August 1984
Page: 16

Senator FOREMAN —I refer the Minister for Industry and Commerce to the decision by General Motors-Holden's Ltd to stop making six-cylinder engines in Australia. What effect will this have upon employment in the motor vehicle industry? Also, will the Minister comment on the assertion that the move threatens to turn Australians into a race of assemblers?

Senator BUTTON —I do not know who said that this decision threatens to turn Australians into a nation of assemblers. It is certainly not the Government's intention and it is certainly not the intention of the car industry plan, which was announced in May this year, that that should take place. I think it is very easy to look, as it were, at the history of the car industry in Australia and make statements of that kind without adequate consideration. I am aware, of course, of the decision by General Motors to cease manufacture of a six-cylinder engine in Australia. It is not a decision which was arrived at recently, which the publicity might suggest. It is a decision which was arrived at, certainly in negotiating terms, as a result of the previous Government's policies well before the car industry plan was announced in May. Indeed, it was foreshadowed in a famous document which allegedly fell from the back of a General Motors truck in Adelaide in, I think, May or June of 1983. That decision was well under way before the present plan was introduced.

Insofar as the employment aspects are concerned, I am not able to provide a detailed answer in respect of that except to say that General Motors has indicated publicly that there are some 600 employees involved and it would hope to accommodate those employees within the existing structure of the company. I remind Senator Foreman that General Motors also has made a decision, which is a reconsideration of an earlier decision, to continue the manufacture of an eight- cylinder engine in Australia. Certainly that will have favourable employment consequences. It is a decision which has been made directly as a result of the provisions of the plan which this Government announced in May of this year. I simply reiterate that although one might have wished otherwise the decision by General Motors is a decision for that company and it is consistent with the Governments policy in relation to the vehicle industry. I should also say that further down the track of the eight-year plan the Government would hope, indeed expect, that arrangements would be made between various companies for joint production of a six-cylinder engine in Australia.