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Monday, 22 October 1984
Page: 2105

Senator FOREMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I draw the Minister's attention to the report in Friday's Press which states that General Motors- Holden's Ltd intends to shed 3,500 jobs as part of its overall rationalisation plan. In August it was announced that only 600 jobs would be lost. Can the Minister comment on this large increase in numbers to be retrenched, and can he indicate how this will affect the motor vehicle industry employment prospects in South Australia?

Senator BUTTON —I think the report to which Senator Foreman referred was in the Australian Financial Review. It suggested that GMH would shed some 3,500 jobs over the next 15 months. This is not in any way a new announcement by General Motors-Holden's. Senator Foreman will recall that, in announcing the Government' s policy for the car industry on 28 May this year, I went into some detail to indicate that as a result of a series of very heavy losses which General Motors has incurred over the last few years, the company had told me it was its intention to reduce its work force. I do not recall the figure exactly; I said either by 3,700 or 4,000, but it was in the vicinity of 4,000. I did that deliberately because I had been told that by General Motors.

The article to which Senator Foreman referred draws on a document which General Motors has issued explaining the company's intentions regarding this matter. That document is designed to indicate areas of production in which the company wishes to concentrate its activities and areas where it would be out-sourcing components to component manufacturers when it has traditionally made those components itself. As I said, the actual and planned reductions in the company's work force take place against a background of very substantial losses by General Motors in recent years. Currently the General Motors employment level is around 14,500. That includes quite a bit of short term employment-around 1,300-for what is called the Commodore facelift. It also includes a substantial number of people currently at Acacia Ridge in Queensland, the company having announced last year its intention to close that plant, I think later this year. The latest information we have had from the company is that it expects its work force to be around 11,000 at the end of 1985.

Senator Foreman particularly asked about the consequences for employment in South Australia. As I understand the document which General Motors has distributed on this issue, the company is concerned to consolidate its activities in particular plants and in particular regions. That was what led to the decision to close the Acacia Ridge plant in Queensland. One of those places where consolidation is intended to take place is Elizabeth in South Australia. I indicate to Senator Foreman that, unless I have been misinformed, it is my understanding that there will be no significant changes at all in the size of the work force at Elizabeth in South Australia, although he will, of course, be aware of the company's intentions announced last year in relation to the Woodville plant.