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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2780


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(3.08) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This report was not available until the tabling of papers this morning. I have not had a chance to look at it closely but it is being tabled at a time when the motor vehicle industry is in particularly serious straits. The figures which have come down today from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are worse than those which were produced by Idaps Research Pty Ltd a few days ago, which were very sobering, about the present position of the industry. The registration of new motor vehicles, according to ABS figures, has slumped to reach the lowest October result since October 1967. Registrations fell by 4.5 per cent over the month to 40,259 and by over 30 per cent compared with October last year. In seasonally adjusted terms, the October figure is 7.1 per cent lower than the September result and 29.6 per cent lower than at October 1985. This is the lowest monthly result since August 1972.

There is very limited opportunity to debate matters on the presentation of these reports but since the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button) is in the chamber I simply say to him that notwithstanding his frequent recitation of the litany of reasons why motor vehicle sales have slumped-that includes the high level of sales last year, interest rates are high, the exchange rate has meant that import prices have risen and the price of imported components has risen, there has been a switch to unleaded petrol and so on-all these factors influence the market. The fact is that the Government has wilfully and intentionally added to the burdens of the industry by its sales tax adjustments in the Budget-the second lot of sales tax adjustments within 12 months-and by the fringe benefits tax.

The simple point I want to make, in responding at this stage to the presentation of this report, is to say to the Government that when the terms of trade are moving so heavily against an industry they have certainly moved very heavily against the motor industry in Australia in the last year-it is not the time for the Government to impose new discretionary burdens on the industry. I appeal to the Minister to give urgent consideration to the plight of the industry and the need to reduce the burdens under which it is staggering at the moment.

As far as the Authority is concerned, I have expressed previously in this place my concern about the prospect of the Authority advising the Minister on his taking punitive action against manufacturers who are as yet not making the sorts of changes which the car plan envisages. I am particularly concerned because the factual basis on which the Authority is making its assessments are facts which are not known to the general public because of the commercial confidentiality of the information. I put the Minister on notice that the Opposition would certainly not be in a position to support action by the Government to force car makers to take action under the car plan when it, the Opposition and the general public are in the dark as to the surrounding facts. Mr Deputy President, I do not know whether there are other senators who wish to speak on this report.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There are.


Senator CHANEY —In that case I will not seek leave to continue my remarks.