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Tuesday, 30 November 1976
Page: 3001

Mr HAMER (Isaacs) - I want to draw to the attention of the House a very unsatisfactory situation with regard to the supply of cars to our Ambassadors and Heads of Missions overseas. In answer to my question No. 76, the Minister for Administrative Services said that it was the policy of his Department to supply overseas posts with Australian vehicles 'where the price, including freight, location and suitability of the vehicle, availability of spare parts and effective after-sales service make it reasonable for such a vehicle to be supplied '.

That sounds fine, but does it work? I accept that there are cost problems in supplying Australian cars to countries with left-hand drive cars. These cost problems can be overcome and I will take this matter up on a later occasion. I would like to tackle some more flagrant problems first. I admit also that there are foreign cars more expensive, more luxurious and more mechanically advanced than is any Australian car. Yet an Australian car such as the Statesman Caprice is fully adequate for any ambassador. I have the answer to my question No. 1429 showing details of the cars supplied to Australian Ambassadors and Heads of Missions during the 6 months ending 30 June this year. There were 13 such cars. All but three were foreign made cars. The honourable exceptions were in Jakarta, where a Holden is in use; in Karachi where a Holden is also in use and in Kuala Lumpur where a Ford is in use.

I applaud these choices although I point out that a Ford, is for these special purposes, a less suitable choice than a Holden because it is not readily identifiable as Australian. It is the duty of an Australian ambassador to use publicly Australian products where possible. We are a major industrial nation, one of the few with an indigenous motor car industry. If our ambassadors reject our products, how can we expect our overseas customers to have confidence in these products? Could one imagine a French ambassador, for instance, doing such a thing?

If the Minister's guidelines were, in fact, followed there would be no problem but it does not work that way. Ambassadors in practice have a major say in what car is supplied to them. Although there are exceptions, too many of them prefer to swank around in Rolls Royces or Mercedes Benz instead of a perfectly adequate Australian car such as the Statesman Caprice. They have added to their cultural cringe a weird sort of industrial cringe. Let us look at some of these examples. A Mercedes Benz was supplied for our Head of Mission in Johannesburg, South Africa. Why was this done? We export cars to South Africa and our Head of Mission should certainly use one. A Mercedes Benz was provided for the Head of Mission in Hong Kong. There are many Australian cars in Hong Kong. Why does our representative not drive one himself? In Dublin, Ireland, the American Ambassador drives an Australian built Statesman Caprice. Yet our Ambassador drives a German built Mercedes Benz. What country is he supposed to be representing?

This situation is simply not good enough. The Minister's guidelines have been flagrantly flouted. To assist him in imposing these guidelines on our Ambassadors and Heads of Mission, I hereby give notice that in the estimates debates next year I shall move for a reduction in the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services by the value of any non-Australian cars supplied during 1976-77 to our ambassadors overseas, except in cases where the supply of an Australian car was clearly impracticable. I hope for wide support for such a motion from both sides of the House.

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