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Tuesday, 9 October 1984
Page: 1448

Senator HEARN —I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services to my question of 4 September regarding Australian Council of Trade Union criticism of the implementation of government policies on preference for Australian made goods. The Minister in his answer to my question referred to a major company with a large contract with his Department which was contemplating moving its manufacturing operations off-shore and observed that, if it did so, he would review that contract. I ask the Minister whether the company has indicated to him its intentions in this regard. If so, what action is he considering regarding its contract?

Senator GIETZELT —I recall the general sense of the question that was raised with me by Senator Hearn about a month or so ago when I indicated the Government's policies in respect of the purchase of goods with a preference for Australian made goods. I remember that I undertook to take up with my Department a matter brought to my attention in respect of one of the major suppliers of goods to my Department. It was reported that this company was going off-shore in its manufacturing operations.

Therefore, I made some inquiries and looked at the contract to see whether there was a violation of its terms relating to preference for Australian-made goods. I checked with the particular company and it has advised me that its attitude has not changed; it will be persisting with supplying Australian-made goods in response to that contractual arrangement. The company was advised of the Government's position and my personal attitude on the matter, and it has given an assurance that it will continue to supply the Australian market, including my Department, with Australian-made goods. The company indicated that it had purchased an interest in a Singapore company which manufactures and supplies goods for the Asian market, but that this would in no way affect the contractual arrangements with the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

On the general question raised by Senator Hearn concerning Australian manufacturing companies which are successful tenderers to the Commonwealth and which subsequently reduce the Australian content of their manufactured goods, I am advised that this is sufficient ground for reviewing the contract, and further that, if this review were to show that a 20 per cent notional discount for Australian content was the decisive factor in awarding the contract in the first place, there would be ground for terminating that contract. I reassure the Senate and Senator Hearn in particular that this matter is being constantly monitored by all Ministers in the Hawke Government.