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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2914

Senator FOREMAN —My question, which is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, concerns the Government's new car industry policy announced recently. What does the future hold for the car industry in South Australia in light of the new motor vehicle plan? Is there likely to be any substantial further loss of employment from the industry in South Australia over the next five years?

Senator BUTTON —I am asked what the future holds. Of course, I want to qualify anything I say by indicating that nobody can look into a crystal ball in respect of the motor car industry or any other industry in the sense that that question might suggest. But let me say, first of all, that in relation to the development of the car industry plan, very specific attention was paid to the difficulties of South Australia in terms of its former very substantial base in the motor vehicle industry and to the importance of employment in that State in the motor vehicle industry. Two major manufacturers, General Motors-Holdens Ltd and Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd, which, if one examines the public record of their financial performances over the last few years, are the least successful companies, have operations situated in South Australia. Both are still experiencing difficulties, although I believe the situation of both companies has improved considerably this year.

Insofar as the specifics of the car industry plan are concerned, let me say that one of the important elements of the plan is designed to give a degree of stability to the industry in the next couple of years. That involves decisions which were made about substitute passenger motor vehicles. That will mean that some 10,000 to 15,000 more vehicles a year will be manufactured in Australia in the next two or three years under this plan than would have occurred otherwise. So that will be relevant to the question of employment, particularly in South Australia.

Secondly, the question of employment in South Australia will be favourably affected, I believe, by the attention the Government has given first of all to making money available in respect of the design of vehicles and research and development in the motor vehicle industry. That will be very relevant to the skilled work force in South Australia as will the proposal which the Government is currently investigating with South Australia to establish a tooling centre for the industry at Woodville. In the course of the development of the motor vehicle plan we have had considerable discussions with the unions involved and, so far as South Australia is concerned, with the Government of South Australia. The Premier welcomed the plan. The Federal office of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation of Australia welcomed the plan as did both Mitsubishi and General Motors, the two companies operating in South Australia. The Federated Automotive Parts Manufacturers organisation described it as a vast improvement on the previous Government's policies and a plan which could see the Australian industry developing into a more efficient and competitive industry ensuring stability of employment.

Those comments, I think, indicate the fact that concern which was previously present in South Australia has been considerably allayed by the development of the motor vehicle plan. I will be in Adelaide later this month. One of the things I will be doing will be meeting with the unions in Adelaide at the State Conference of the Builders Workers Industrial Union of Australia. We will have the opportunity for further discussions at that time about the ramifications for South Australia.