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Thursday, 14 May 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - Can the Minister give an assurance that the amendment which has been moved and which he has expressed his willingness to accept, will be applied only as a temporary measure to enable the present arrears to be overcome ?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -i give that assurance.

Senator COLLINGS - I asked for it, because Senator Abbott expressed the hope that its application would be more or less of a permanent nature.

Senator Abbott - No; only to relieve the present situation.

Senator COLLINGS - I am glad that the Minister is prepared to give such an assurance. Senator Hardy said that the history of motor body-building in Australia was one of the romances of industry. This committee, therefore, should take care that it does nothing to destroy the romance. The history of General Motors-Holden. Limited is remarkable. Some years ago I inspected the company's great works in Adelaide and Woodville, and I realized their enormous value to Australia.. Honorable senators may be surprised to know that for a number of years the company was unable to show a profit on its operations. The business had to be thoroughly established before a profit could be obtained. It is a remarkably efficient industry, and has satisfied all demands made upon it. It has not exploited the public. In 1917, shipping space was required for goods of much more importance to Australia than motor cars, which took up a tremendous amount of space when imported in the assembled form. In that year, the Government proposed to prohibit, under tlie War Precautions Act, tb importation of motor cars, in order to conserve shipping freight space. This was necessary on account of the destruction of shipping during the war. A very strong protest was entered by the motor distributors at that time, as such a prohibition would have meant the closing down of their businesses. Figures were produced showing the amount of capital invested in the automobile industry. The difficulty was eventually got over by the suggestion by the importers that they should be allowed to import one complete car with every two chassis, thus economizing freight space. This course was decided upon. Then Holdens decided to embark upon the business of building bodies in Australia, and the undertaking has assumed remarkable proportions today. The men engaged in the industry desire that nothing shall be done to retard its progress. The secretary of the trade union to which the employees belong told me in Adelaide a few years ago that they had no difficulty whatever with their employers, and had always been able to settle their -differences at round-table conferences.

The report of the directors of General Motors-Holdens Limited submitted at the annual meeting of shareholders of the company held in Melbourne in March last, showed that the number of its employees in Australia is 5,450, of whom 3,900 are engaged in passenger car body manufacture. The total amount paid iri salaries and wages in Australia for 1934 was almost £900,000, of which over £600,000 was paid to employees in the body-building plant. The expenditure on Australian materials during the year amounted to £1,400,000, of which £750,000 was for the requirements of body manufacture. The operations of other Australian body-builders show figures equally impressive in their contribution to Australia's economic welfare. Those figures illustrate the importance of the industry, the efficiency of which is generally admitted. I suggest that the Government, whilst accepting the amendment, should see that the proposed duties operate only as long as is necessary, and that everything possible is done to protect the industry.

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