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New technology to ensure employment



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EMBARGO 4.00 P.M.

7 September 1978

NEW TECHNOLOGY TO ENSURE EMPLOYMENT

Australia must embrace new technology to improve existing industries and to create new ones, the Minister for Productivity, Mr Ian Macphee, said today.

Mr Macphee was addressing the closing session of the Applied Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacture in Production Engineering Seminar in Melbourne.

Mr Macphee said that to ensure Australia has high levels of employment in the future there was a need to use new technology to create new industries and to, reap the benefits flowing from specialisation and diversification.

"Australia needs new technology in order to be competitive and in order to find export markets. That technology should be as innovative as possible in its design and application. My Department's policies are designed to increase innovation in our existing industries and to create new industries. The whole thrust of the Department is towards innovation

and all aspects of design, manufacture, administration, marketing and personnel management.

"Our work with the management and unions in particular industries has revealed the following trends:

. firstly, that while there may be reductions in employment at a particular work place because of technological change, the reduction in unit costs of goods and services produced by that enterprise leads to an increased demand and therefore

the creation of new employment opportunities elsehwere;

. secondly, because the application of new technology can make some industries more competitive those industries can increase their share of the domestic and international market and thereby increase employment opportunities;

. thirdly, new technology does create new industries both in the manufacturing and tertiary sectors and these in turn create new employment opportunities both directly and indirectly.

"The task facing Governments in Australia is therefore to remove the disincentives faced by industry in respect of design and installation of new technology. Most of these disincentives relate to costs incurred by management as a result of Government action. My Department is currently identifying these disincentives and in doing so it-has the co-operation of the many State and Federal Departments involved.

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Mr Macphee said the Department of Productivity was established two years ago specifically to focus on medium to longer term issues relating to technology and the consequences flowing from technical developments in order to devise long term policies and strategies to deal with the

impact of technology on people.

"My Department has won the support of unions, management and State Governments on employee participation with particular emphasis upon the restructuring of jobs in the course of designing technology aimed at improving productivity. The recently established Tripartite Steering Committee on Employee Participation will be a major force in reconciling these problems.

"The productivity improvement- programs which have been initiated by my Department in most labour intensive industries also relate directly to the consequences of technological change. These are self-help projects in which we provide the catalyst. The aim is to rejuvenate our existing

industries and to harmonise the rate of change concerning the introduction of new technology, the retraining of labour, the redeployment of capital and the creation of new industries with new jobs.

"In the footwear industry a tripartite group has been working since last September. So far the major achievement has been a report on production practices in the industry which has been widely acclaimed as a very substantial tool for individual manufacturers to use in improving the productivity of their company.

"One manufacturer has, as a result of our discussions, undertaken a program in his plant which has achieved a 20% improvement in some areas and a 6% improvement overall in the factory. He has reorganised his product range, installed new processes and extended the use of his in-house

computer. He has increased employment, productivity, and volume. His activity and success is typical of that being achieved in this industry.

"There are similar programs in at least 5 other industries, which although in earlier stages of development, are nevertheless showing comparable results. In particular the clothing industry has shown excellent results in specific areas." .

Mr Macphee said there were barriers and problems to be overcome with the introduction of any new technology, not the least of which was the need to relate technology to people.

"One of the themes which I have pursued frequently has been the need to design and adapt technology with regard to our highly educated workforce. The level of education in Australia is a distinct advantage compared to that of most other countries. This enables us to undertake more sophisticated work than is done by most of the low labour cost countries.

"Consequently we should use technology to replace the jobs which people do not want, these being too menial or dirty for the aspirations of our present work force. Whereas past technology was designed to simplify jobs, there is ample evidence that our work force derives job satisfaction and motivation from more challenging jobs and increased responsibility.

Technology should therefore be designed and adapted with those aspirations in mind." Mr Macphee said.

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Melbourne 7 September 1978