Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 25 August 1994
Page: 367

Senator McKIERNAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Small Business, Customs and Construction. I intend to listen to the minister's answer rather than do what Senator Alston did. I understand that yesterday in Parliament House the Australian Shipbuilders Association held a workshop to consider the long-term future of the Australian shipbuilding industry and that it was attended by a broad cross-section of the industry. Can the minister provide any details of the outcome of yesterday's workshop and information about the current state of the shipbuilding industry in Australia? Also, is the minister able to provide specific examples of successful shipbuilding by Australian companies? We will be listening from Perth on this one.

Senator SCHACHT —I thank Senator McKiernan for his question. As he is a Western Australian senator, he was obviously aware of the success of the new Australian shipbuilding industry, much of it based in Western Australia. Australia has had a long history of steel shipbuilding, for many years heavily subsidised and heavily protected by bounties, et cetera. However, what is not well known is that shipbuilding by private industry is now one of Australia's most successful export industries.

  In 1993-94 the industry was valued at over $300 million with exports at around $260 million in the same period. The Australian shipbuilding industry is a mixture of large and small companies such as Transfield and ADI, as well as Oceanfast in Western Australia and Incat in Tasmania. The industry is located in all states, and is a major employer and generator of wealth for Australia.

  Yesterday the Australian Shipbuilders Association, in conjunction with my department, held a seminar to discuss the future plans for the industry. Over 100 people attended here in Parliament House, and they adopted a strategic plan with a vision for what the industry wants to achieve by the year 2000. The major plan is that in the fast shipbuilding area—the fast ferries, aluminium built ships—they want to maintain the advantage they have in the world marketplace. What is probably not known in Australia is that we have 30 per cent of the world market in aluminium fast ferries. We have that advantage because of our world competitiveness, our innovation and the good management of those firms right around Australia. Yesterday the industry adopted a target of achieving $1 billion worth of exports by the year 2000. It believes it can be achieved, but it will only be achieved if the industry maintains its innovative edge in ensuring that all the best methods are put together.

  We in the Australian government support that initiative. We believe that, as the industry makes the effort and the commitment, we are there to assist it. One of the first things we will be doing is establishing a secretariat within the Australian Shipbuilders Association to bring together through the networking process many more Australian industries which probably do not realise that they have a potential to be involved in this expanding export industry of Australian ships.

  One of the areas we will be particularly looking at is the development of the ship of the future, looking into whether we can adapt ferry construction into building fast freight ships travelling at similar speeds—30 or 40 knots—between Australian ports. We will look at selling those as regional container ships within the Asia-Pacific which has an enormous demand for such ships.

Senator Kemp —How about the China ore trade?

Senator SCHACHT —As usual, Senator Kemp has got it wrong. As usual, all you want to do is harp and criticise and not give credit to an industry which, off its own bat, has got up and established—

Senator Kemp —You gave it away. Senator Evans gave it away.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Do not rise to the bait, Senator Schacht. Address yourself through the chair.

Senator SCHACHT —I am sorry. I do not rise to the bait, but every now and again Senator Kemp deserves a hit around the head. In conclusion, there are many spin-offs in this industry. For example, one of them is Oceanfast, the luxury shipmaker in Perth. It employs all-Australian artisans, tradesmen and craftspeople to fit out its ships at top quality, and this has had a spin-off into other export markets. All in all, this is a great success story of which the industry is proud. It is not sitting on its laurels; it is going ahead to achieve $1 billion worth of exports. Despite Senator Kemp, I think most of the rest of the opposition will support that target.