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Thursday, 4 October 1984
Page: 1294

(Question No. 882)

Senator Bolkus asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 9 May 1984:

(1) Has there been a dramatic fall in employment in the tool making industry since 1974.

(2) Has the decrease been in the order of 50 per cent, with two-thirds of this occurring between 1981 and 1983, and much of it occurring in South Australia.

(3) Has this been caused by a lack of local investment, by a change in labour retention policies and especially by the unrecorded import of substantial quantities of tooling materials.

(4) Will the Government respond positively to the proposal of the South Australian Government that for every one per cent of tooling exported by a vehicle producer, the same amount be deducted from the duty payable on imported completely built-up units, in view of the state of this industry.

Senator Button —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

It is difficult to obtain official statistics which clearly demonstrate what is the situation in the sector of Australian manufacturing industry producing dies.

Indications are however that both the number of establishments and numbers employed have fallen since the early 1970's.

Dies fall within ASIC 3,367 (with saw blades and machine tool accessories) and official statistics show that in the 10 years to 1982-83 average employment in that area fell by around 37 per cent to 4,097 and the number of manufacturing establishments involved contracted by about 37 per cent to 358.

The honourable senator is probably aware of the report by the South Australian Department of State Development on ''Tooling for the Automotive Industry''. The South Australian study showed that between 1974 and 1983, employment in the tool -rooms surveyed fell from about 3,000 to around 1,500, or 50 per cent. The report adds that most of this reduction occurred in 1981 and 1982.

The Australian Toolmakers Association claims that the industry may have more establishments than indicated by official statistics. The Association claims the number of companies in Australia is in excess of 800.

The Metal Fabrication Industry Council has also commenced a study of the industry sector and a working party has been established. I look forward to receiving a report from the Council later in the year following which the Government will be in a position to consider what action, if any, would be appropriate.

In regard to the proposal by the South Australian Government, the Commonwealth Government did not consider the assistance arrangements for the motor vehicle industry to be the appropriate avenue to address the problems of the tooling industry. For this reason the Government did not take up the South Australian Government proposal at the time it was considering the question of motor vehicle policy.

The Government however recognises the importance of the tooling industry to South Australia. We are co-operating with the South Australian Government in its examination of the feasibility of establishing an industry consortium to produce tooling for Australian vehicle and component manufacturers.

The $150m being made available for design and research activities within the motor vehicle industry over the next five years will also be of benefit to the industry in South Australia.